This paper, prepared for the Conference on Korean-American Relations held in Seoul in October 1981, argues that the United States must articulate a coherent and consistent security policy toward Korea. Historically Korea has had a strategic importance far out of proportion to its size. In the post-World War II period, Korea's importance has stemmed from its geopolitical position at the intersection of conflicting great power interest in East Asia, with the United States and the Soviet Union the central actors. The United States has, however, vacillated in its appreciation of Korea's strategic importance and in its estimation of Korea's value to U.S. global strategy. This has given U.S. security policy toward Korea a basic quality of ambivalence and allowed it to fluctuate between the extremes of intervention and withdrawal. In the 1980s, America's fundamental commitment to the defense of Korea should be made unambiguous, and Korea should be integrated closely into central U.S. strategic concerns.
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