There is also concern in Seoul that if the U.S. hands off operational control of South Korean troops, it may be tempted to dial back its overall security commitment. This is one reason many South Koreans (including 16 former defense ministers) have opposed OpCon transfer from the moment then-President Roh Moo Hyun proposed it in 2006.This concern has become more acute as current U.S. foreign policy projects weakness around the world. Washington boasts of a "pivot" to Asia yet has cut the defense budget, shrunk the Navy and Air Force, and abandoned its strategy of being able to fight two wars simultaneously. America promises "extended deterrence" to South Korea, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella and missile defenses. Yet in April, as North Korea threatened to test more missiles, Secretary of State John Kerry offered to cut U.S. missile defenses in the region if China reined in Pyongyang.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
A Test of Responsibility in Korea: Seoul now wants the U.S. to retain military command on the peninsula.
We may be at a key turning point in the Alliance. I do not think we are really grasping the issue in these two paragraphs.
We should remember that in all the alliance strategic planning documents we have recognized that the alliance is the friendly center of gravity. This is more than rhetoric to our ROK allies. They truly believe it (as do I).
While some Americans will belittle the ROK and say its time for them to stand on their own two feet or they have now have the economic power to be independent in defense I think we need to really pay attention to what the ROK is saying. I actually think that some senior Korean officials may actually be doing some very mature risk analysis and weighing their national security interests. I think they are willing to field the criticism that they are "afraid" to let go of the hand of the American big brother in the face of the bully from the north. I do not think they are afraid at all and I think they know they could stand on their own two feet and fight and win. But they are calculating their own long term strategic interests and they know that they are better served with the US as an ally and they are willing to eat humble pie to ensure the strength of the Alliance because they do fear that if we (the US) continue down this fiscal path combined with US domestic politics that the US military commitment to the ROK continue to decline. The ROK knows that it has since 1978 when President Carter wanted to remove all US forces and every President, Republican or Democrat, since has either removed or altered some forces (even if for sound military or strategic reasons), removed nuclear weapons, removed US forces from patrolling the DMZ, and now is willing to dissolve the Combined
Forces Command. Taken as a whole over time the picture that is painted is one of declining commitment and now the ROK may have decided that it cannot allow for any further erosion of the alliance. It may have calculated that the only way to ensure commitment from the US is to leave the Combined Forces Command (CFC) intact with an American commander.
There is an opportunity here at this turning point and with this alliance friction. We do have the opportunity to move beyond the big brother-little brother relationship (and such US rhetoric as the only way we are going to make the ROK be fully responsible is by forcing the ROK to do more for themselves and to dissolve the Combined Forces Command so that the ROK will no longer be dependent on the US). What we really have the opportunity to do is to assess the alliance interests and determine our mutual interests and the best way to organize the military instrument of power to support achieving those interests. The proposal for a Combined Theater Command (CTC) with a Korean General in charge has been floated and may be the best way for the alliance to evolve. However, the question is while the ROK is maturely looking at its strategic interested and is willing to be chastised as immature for wanting CFC to remain with a US general in charge, is the US mature enough to allow a transition to a CTC with a Korean general in command? (we need to keep in mind the true command relationships exercised through the Military Committee – we also remember the well written and wise words of article II of the ROK/US Mutual Defense Treaty as well. Now is the time for the most effective mutual consultation and agreement in 60 years on how best to organize the military forces of both nations to deter armed attack and to further the purposes of the Treaty.
“The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of either of them, the political independence or security of either of the Parties is threatened by external armed attack. Separately and jointly, by self help and mutual aid, the Parties will maintain and develop appropriate means to deter armed attack and will take suitable measures in consultation and agreement to implement this Treaty and to further its purposes.”
Add South Korea to the list of countries where the tide of war is not receding. Citing growing threats from the North, nervous officials in Seoul have asked Washington to delay a planned transfer of wartime military command from U.S. to South Korean forces. Seoul's request is another reminder that the world is dangerous and America is the main check against global rogues.
The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been intertwined since the Korean War, when America commanded a coalition under the United Nations flag. South Korea's military remained under U.S. command after the war but became more independent as the country grew into a prosperous democracy.
In 1994 Seoul regained command of its own troops in peacetime, and in 2006 South Korea and the U.S. agreed that Seoul would also assume command of its own troops in a war. This transfer of so-called operational control is set for December 2015, but Seoul has now asked Washington for an indefinite delay.
The two sides have already delayed "OpCon" transfer once before, in 2010, after North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. The North has since shelled a South Korean island, launched long-range missiles, tested a third nuclear device, and repeatedly threatened war against South Korea and the U.S. homeland. Amid these threats, it is little surprise that Seoul would rather not shake up the long-time military command.
There is also concern in Seoul that if the U.S. hands off operational control of South Korean troops, it may be tempted to dial back its overall security commitment. This is one reason many South Koreans (including 16 former defense ministers) have opposed OpCon transfer from the moment then-President Roh Moo Hyun proposed it in 2006.
This concern has become more acute as current U.S. foreign policy projects weakness around the world. Washington boasts of a "pivot" to Asia yet has cut the defense budget, shrunk the Navy and Air Force, and abandoned its strategy of being able to fight two wars simultaneously. America promises "extended deterrence" to South Korea, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella and missile defenses. Yet in April, as North Korea threatened to test more missiles, Secretary of State John Kerry offered to cut U.S. missile defenses in the region if China reined in Pyongyang.
Such behavior doesn't reassure American friends in Seoul, Tokyo and other capitals. Already some South Korean lawmakers are calling for Seoul to develop nuclear weapons, a move supported by 66% of the public in a recent poll. Nuclear proliferation is less likely if Washington agrees to delay or shelve OpCon transfer.
(Continued at the link below)
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