Monday, July 22, 2013

Korea-U.S. Talks on Troop Handover to Start This Month

Discussions will focus on the latest threats posed by North Korea and the capability of the South Korea's military to handle full operational control of its forces in wartime. 
But I would add that they really need to focus on answering the questions:  How to best organize Alliance military forces to achieve the strategic objectives?  Are the military actions and organizations of the Alliance contributing to the ROK ability to achieve unification (the long term strategic objective per the 2009 Joint Vision statement and the May 2013 joint declaration by our two Presidents).

But I think this excerpt below gives an indiction of the possible real reason for the pre-mature leaks.  I think there are elements in the ROKG and in particular the ROK military that are concerned that the US will further reduce its commitment to the Alliance and that they would rather take the heat and even loss of face by calling for a delay and leaving the US General in Command of the Combined Forces Command in order to ensure that US remains committed to the Alliance with sufficient military forces.
U.S. military officials are apparently opposed to another delay because it could clash with planned budget cuts. Under the new plan, Washington would hand over troop control and provide naval and air support in the event of a war. But if the U.S. maintains wartime control of South Korea's military beyond 2015, Washington could demand Seoul shoulder a larger portion of the upkeep of American troops here. 
I am afraid that this could be a real indication of the confidence in the US commitment.  Ironically, I think the ROK might be willing to pay more of US stationing costs in order to ensure US presence even at the expense of ROK military modernization.  Perhaps this should give us some pause in regards to the Asian Pivot.  If one of our closest allies potentially has low confidence in our commitment and is willing to take such drastic actions as to undercut its own legitimacy and suffer the domestic political wrath that it will suffer for some time to come, then we should consider how other friends, partners, and allies view US commitments.  They are all reading the tea leave regarding sequestration and US domestic politics.   I think GEN Mattis' words are very prescient and may apply as much to our friends, partners, and allies as to enemies.

Mattis also warned that Admirals and Generals need to "stop sucking their thumbs and whining about sequestration, telling the world we're weak" because it sends a signal to nations such as Iran and North Korea, and they may start to believe it.
Korea-U.S. Talks on Troop Handover to Start This Month

Seoul and Washington plan to start discussions at the end of this month on whether once again to postpone the transfer of full operational control of Korean troops to Seoul.

A government source here on Friday said discussions about delaying the handover will take place during the two-day Integrated Defense Dialogue in Seoul starting July 30.

The handover, already once postponed from 2012, is scheduled for 2015 and spells the end for Combined Forces Command under U.S. leadership.

Discussions will focus on the latest threats posed by North Korea and the capability of the South Korea's military to handle full operational control of its forces in wartime.

Representing Seoul will be Deputy Defense Minister Lim Kwan-bin, while the U.S. side will be represented by Pentagon officials David Helvey and Brad Roberts.

Seoul and Washington agreed in February 2007 to hand back full troop control to Seoul by April 17, 2012, but former president Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in 2010 to postpone the handover to Dec. 1, 2015.

Seoul officials are optimistic that Washington will accept the request for another postponement, but the process nevertheless will not be easy.

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent response to the Senate Armed Services Committee said he supports the handover of troop control as scheduled and deemed the timeframe "appropriate."
(Continued at the link below)

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