Monday, July 22, 2013

South Koreans Ask U.S. to Reconsider Timing of Military Handoff

Just when I thought the Alliance was at the pinnacle of strength we have this situation with which to deal.  We very well could do what the Kim Family Regime has been trying to do for some 60 years and that is to split the ROK/US Alliance.

I am now very worried that we are going to talk past each other and make some hasty decisions that both sides will later regret.  I am slightly optimistic based on the spokesman's statements below:
The colonel cautioned that South Korea was not publicly insisting on another postponement; rather, it was requesting that the Pentagon review plans for the hand-off, including its target date, given “North Korea’s worsening nuclear program.”
Such cautious language reflected Seoul’s desire to find a quiet solution and avoid a possible public dispute with Washington. 
The solution to this situation lies in the already proposed establishment of the Combined Theater Command to enlace the Combined Forces Command with a Korean General in charge.  Even this may not allay South Korean fears about a reduction in the US commitment.  With the recent announcement of rotational US ground forces I think the ROK military sees the writing on the wall and that with the high cost of transportation that eventually the rotations will cease and the US commitment will wane.

I really am beginning to think that this is not as much about the ROK military not being confident and ready to operate independently or out of fear of the north but is more about their strategic calculation that the US may eventually not honor its Alliance commitments if it is not in control and that the ROK military would rather suffer the wrath of domestic criticism that lose its military alliance partner in the US.  The ROK military would rather keep the US in charge and be criticized as weak than risk the Alliance being split by Alliance actions and not by the north.

I think we really need to recognize and understand the nature of the ROK military's concerns and then get on with organizing the combined forces in the optimal way to meet the alliance strategic objectives.  Again I think the optimal way is to evolve to a combined  Theater Command commanded by a Korean General with both countries maintaining its commitment of blood and treasure to the Alliance. And if we are to rotate forces then we need to include a tour on the DMZ integrated into the ROK DMZ structure to ensure that we sustain our commitment and provide US forces with mission focus by standing toe to toe and eye to eye with the north Koreans.

But I am beginning to worry about how this issue is being played out in the press when there is a really of work for those in the working groups preparing for this fall's Security Consultative Meeting. We really need to get these issues worked out by the working group behind clothes doors and not air our dirty laundry so that it can be observed by the north.
V/R
Dave

July 22, 2013

South Koreans Ask U.S. to Reconsider Timing of Military Handoff


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea, reluctant to weaken its strong relationship with the American military, has asked the United States to reconsider the timing of a plan to cede to Seoul the responsibility for control of the South Korean military in case of war, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday.

The Pentagon assumed operational control of South Korea’s military in 1950, during the Korean War. It returned peacetime control to Seoul in 1994, but is still obliged to command South Korea’s 640,000-member military in the event of war. In 2007, the United States agreed to return that power to the South by 2012. But the date was pushed to 2015 a few years ago, as high tensions on the Korean Peninsula increased the South’s fear of appearing militarily weakened.

This spring, after the North began a new wave of nuclear-related threats, South Korean officials delivered another request to “re-examine” the planned transfer through various channels, including in their May meeting with Gen. James D. Thurman, the commander of American forces on the peninsula, said the Defense Ministry spokesman, Col. Wi Yong-seob.

South Korea’s defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, also discussed the request briefly with his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel, when they met on the sidelines of multilateral security talks in Singapore on June 1, Colonel Wi said.

The colonel cautioned that South Korea was not publicly insisting on another postponement; rather, it was requesting that the Pentagon review plans for the hand-off, including its target date, given “North Korea’s worsening nuclear program.”

Such cautious language reflected Seoul’s desire to find a quiet solution and avoid a possible public dispute with Washington.

Since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February and responded to new international sanctions by repeatedly threatening to attack the South, conservative politicians affiliated with President Park Geun-hye’s governing Saenuri Party have argued that South Korea was not ready to take wartime command of its military by 2015.

At the Pentagon, senior officials confirmed that the issue was under discussion. But one senior official said there had been "no formal proposal to adjust plans."

“Both sides have reaffirmed, and continue to work to meet, the conditions” for transfer by 2015, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks between the two nations.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate last week that the South Korean military “is a very capable force, but it has had some setbacks in funding to achieve" some of the steps the two allies have set for transfer of control, including the purchase of weapons, the stockpiling of munitions and the mastering of certain surveillance platforms.


General Dempsey stated his support for the existing timetable, and noted that General Thurman and his team were working with their South Korean counterparts to help them "meet the certification and capability requirements."
(Continued at the link below)

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