With all due respect to Mr. Harlan but we really need some journalists who understand the command relationships in Korea. I know they are complex and not easily explained. But this perpetuation of the myth of "OPCON transfer" is unhelpful.
First, the ROK did not push for the transfer seven years ago. This goes back to January of 2003 when Rumsfeld offered it up to the delegation from the incoming Roh administration when they came to DC because Rumsfeld wanted to use the troops that he (and Wolfowitz)thought were "wasted" in Korea because they could not be used int he war on terrorism.
But the reality is that this is not about the US command of ROK troops or the ROK command of US troops (though the ROK does has had operational control of many US troops under the operational plans). This is also not technically a legacy of the Korean War and the command arrangements then when ROK forces were put under the operational control of the United Nations Command. In 1978 the Combined Forces Command was established which is a true combined command with a nearly one for one counterpart relationship throughout the entire command structure with the only real visible focus on the senior commander who is a US general with a ROK general as deputy commander. But that commander answers to the MiliTray Committee which is made up of representatives of both nation's National Command and Military Authorities. Although it is fashionable to say that ROK troops are under US command or operational control in reality ROK and US forces remain under their national commands and the Combined Forces Command exercises operational control of both ROK and US forces when each government decides to CHOP (change of operational control) its forces to the Combined Forces Command. What was to happen in 2012 and then delayed to 2015 was not really the return of ROK OPCON but the dissolution of the Combined Warfighting Command and (and as noted in the article below) the establishment two separate commands, a ROK Command that would be the lead war fighting command (the "supported command") and the US Korea Command (KORCOM) in support of the ROK Command (the "supporting command").
This is not a conservative or progressive/liberal issue, this is an issue for how the ROK/US Military Alliance should organize its forces for the defense of the Republic of Korea. Should there be two separate commands with the huge investment required by both nations to develop independent war fighting capabilities or should there be a combined command that builds on the decades of interoperability training and capabilities and burden sharing of costs? Certainly political considerations and domestic politics must play a role in the decision on how to organize the military forces (as should the threat consideration as well) but in the end both countries must answer the question of how to best organize their military forces to achieve their desired strategic objectives.
My recommendation is the new proposed Combined Theater Command (CTC), commanded by a ROK General with a US General as the deputy that has been in the news recently. This would maintain the effective combined capabilities and allow for equitable sharing of costs. It would ensure unity of command and unity of effort during war or nL regime collapse.
While some will say that we have to invoke the Pershing Rule and not put US forces under a foreign commander we must look at reality. Just as the current Combined Forces Command answers to the Military Committee the Commander of the CTC would as well. We should also note that there are many instances in the previous war plans (I cannot speak to the current ones) in which the ROK Army Commanders (Third ROK Army [TROKA} and First ROK Army [FROKA]) have operational control of US ground combat forces, at various times the I, III, and XVIII US Corps. ROK and US Special Operations Forces fall under the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force (CUWTF) which is commanded by a ROK three star general. The ROK and US Psychological Operations and MISO forces fall under the operational control of the Combined Psychological Operations Task Force (CPOTF) which is commanded by a ROK one star general. We really need to get past the controversy of "OPCON transfer" which is really a distraction from the critical analysis that is needed to how best organize the combined forces to achieve the ROK/US Alliance strategic objectives.
Report says S. Korea wants to delay military deal with U.S.
By Chico Harlan, Wednesday, July 17, 5:45 AM
SEOUL — South Korea has requested to postpone a plan with the United States that would give Seoul control of its own troops during a war, South Korea’s semi-official Yonhap news agency said Wednesday, citing a top U.S. government official.
The reported request, coming on the heels of earlier delays, underscores South Korea’s ambivalence about how it would handle a potential war with the rival North, and whether its own military is capable of operating independently of Washington.
Under the current arrangement — a legacy of the Korean War — the U.S. would command not only its own troops amid fighting on the Korean peninsula, but also those of the South.
The transfer of operational wartime control from Washington to Seoul would mark the greatest power shift in a six-decade alliance. When the South first pushed for the transfer seven years ago, government officials here described it as an affirmation of the South’s sovereignty — and of its rapid modernization.
But the transfer — originally planned for 2012 and then pushed to December 2015 — has since drawn occasional criticism from conservative analysts in both Seoul and Washington, who say deterrence against the North will suffer if the militarily superior U.S. takes a back seat. Earlier this year, a former U.S. military commander in Korea, retired Gen. B.B. Bell, said the U.S. should “permanently postpone” the deal in light of North Korea’s nuclear capability.
The Yonhap report, attributed to a top U.S. government official and confirmed by a senior South Korean official, did not indicate how the U.S. would handle the request.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense did not confirm the Yonhap report in a statement, but said that Seoul had proposed that Washington take into account “North Korea’s heightened nuclear problem” as the two sides discuss the OpCon handoff. The ministry’s statement added that transfer will be “continuously discussed” by the two governments.
The U.S. Forces Korea, in its own statement, said “no formal proposal” has been made to adjust the current OpCon plan.
When the transfer does occur, the 28,500 U.S. troops here will not fall under the command of the South during war. Rather, the U.S. and South Korea will have separate commands that communicate with one another.
(Continued at the link below)