Sunday, September 29, 2013

Truth Or Propaganda? Finding Real Stories In North Korea

Photos can be seen at the link (which are actually just some of the usual fare we see from western photographers traveling in the north).  However, there are some interesting anecdotes in this story with the Buddhist monk, the bowling alley, and Gone with the Wind.  And we should keep this in mind:

One man, a smuggler who fled North Korea, wanted Sullivan to understand that.
"'You gotta remember, we're normal,' " he told Sullivan. "'We're normal people, we're like you. We're like everybody else. Our hearts break, we have fights at the office, we fight with our wives; we're just like anybody else.' "

All of these and many other anecdotes should help convince us that we need to have an aggressive psychological operations campaign to increase information flow inside north Korea.  One of the two major contributing factors for why East and West Germany had a relatively smooth reunification was that there were many contacts between the East and West and the East Germans had much great knowledge of the West that then north has of the South (though the gap is closing).  The second reason was that the infrastructure in the East, though much below that of the West was still relatively much closer to the West than the north's is to the South.  There is not much that can be done about the north's infrastructure now since the regime has been slowly destroying it for the past 60 years due to its bankrupt economic policies.  However, active preparations for unification can be conducted using the information instrument of national power.

But I am reminded of this quote:
"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind, it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate - - and quickly."
- Robert A. Heinlein from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long: Time Enough for Love 
Truth Or Propaganda? Finding Real Stories In North Korea
September 29, 2013 5:02 PM

A Peek Inside North Korea
National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder went on assignment to North Korea with AP correspondent Tim Sullivan, and came back with these photos.

North Korea remains one of the most closed places in the world. And that makes Tim Sullivan kind of a rarity: As the Asia correspondent for the Associated Press, he's spent about six weeks in the country over the course of two trips.
It's a different kind of reporting trip, he tells All Things Considered host Arun Rath.

"A lot of my time is spent ... gauging what is real, what is fake," he says. "If something is fake, in what way is it fake? Do they really do this job and they're simply acting for me? Or do they not do this at all, and it's complete Potemkin?"
But for some reason, he says, he forgot that temporarily during his most recent trip, when he visited a Buddhist monastery.
"All I could think of was that I was dealing with monks, that these people could be genuine believers and if they saw me as an opportunity to criticize the regime and they were heard — which they would be because my minders are with me always — they would go to prison," he says. "Their families would go to prison. People could die."
So he avoided the one topic he wanted to discuss, freedom of religion.
It was an uneventful visit. Sullivan says he asked banal questions, chit-chatted with the monks, then left.
Then something happened on his way out: Suddenly, the senior monk and Sullivan's minder were waiting, looking at him.
"The monk said to me, we know what you want to ask, and he was right," he says.
So Sullivan asked about freedom of religion. There is absolute freedom of religion in North Korea, the monk told him, and it's your responsibility to tell that to the world.
But of course, Sullivan says, religion has been crushed in the last 60 years. While there are a handful of churches and Buddhist temples, he says, they're basically there to show foreigners.
Short Skirts And Muscle Shirts

Not every story Sullivan is told has been scripted. One of his favorite places in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang is a bowling alley called Gold Lane.
The 1970s-style bowling alley — a big showcase during the regime of Kim Il Sung — is a popular gathering place for soldiers now.
"The soldiers take off their shirts, they love to bowl in their sleeveless white t-shirts, showing off their muscles," he says.
The scene, Sullivan says, tells you a lot about recent changes in the country.
"By simply being in the army and living in the capital, that makes them a part of an elite, even if they're not high elite. They're somebody. And they're there with their girlfriends, who can dress in a way that was never seen before," he says.
Their girlfriends parade around in short skirts and high heels. Sullivan says it was basically illegal to wear a short skirt until about a year ago. North Koreans are more plugged in than they used to be — hence they realize how out of date they are, Sullivan says.
There is more money flowing into the country, from mineral and timber sales to China. Sullivan says the tiny but growing middle class wants the same things the Chinese middle class wants.
"They want to wear nice clothing and high heels and have iPods," Sullivan says. "They now do have a consumer ideal, which didn't exist there before."
A Country That Identifies With Scarlett O'Hara

(Continued at the link below)

Commentary: Shut Down the US Combatant Commands Move Would Cut Redundancy, Aid Diplomacy

This should stir up some debate.

Commentary: Shut Down the US Combatant Commands

Move Would Cut Redundancy, Aid Diplomacy

Sep. 29, 2013 - 04:14PM   |  

Defense News recently reported on a Pentagon plan to consolidate its six regional commands into four. The proposal would dissolve Africa Command and split it between European and Central Commands, and combine Southern Command and Northern Command. The action would shed thousands of civilian and military positions and help the Defense Department comply with the budget caps squeezing its topline. But consolidation isn’t enough. The Pentagon should close all of the commands.
Other Pentagon offices can accomplish the commands’ few important functions. The commands have become less accountable alternatives to embassies, predictable sources of threat inflation and insatiable consumers of military resources.
The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, an effort to limit the military services’ independence, gave the regional commands control over deployed US forces. They plan and manage relations with foreign militaries, humanitarian assistance and war. Pacific Command deals with most of Asia. Central Command handles the Middle East and parts of South Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. European Command is largely an offshoot of NATO’s headquarters. Africa, long split by Central and European Commands, got its own command in 2008 — though it still shares European Command’s headquarters. Northern Command was created in 2002 to manage the military’s homeland defense efforts, and Southern Command handles South America.
There are also functional commands dealing with strategic nuclear weapons, transportation and special operations forces, which we would keep.
There is plenty of room to trim. The regional commands collectively employ more than 15,000 military personnel, civilians and contractors. They are also flag officer magnets. Pacific Command alone has five four-star jobs, plus a full-up platoon of three-, two- and one-star generals and admirals. Each service also maintains subordinate commands to deal with the combatant commands — an additional bureaucratic layer.
(Continued at the link below)

Handover of U.S. command of South Korean troops still under debate

I hate to beat a dead horse but can't anyone in the press acknowledge and explain the real issue here?  OPCON Transfer is all about dissolving the ROK/US Combined Forces Command and establishing two separate war fighting commands.  We should keep in mind the four major tasks the ROK/US Combined Forces Command must do:

1.  Deter attack from north Korea and if deterrence fails fight and win.
2.  Prepare for war and north Korean regime collapse.
3.  Maintain a combined readiness posture to respond to north Korean provocations as well as deter and defend against war and deal with regime collapse.
4.  Support the unification of Korea.

And then we should ask if it is better to accomplish these tasks with a combined warfighting command or two separate national commands?  I would submit that the ROK military and perhaps even the ROK civilian leadership are very worried about the future sustained military commitment to the defense of the Peninsula given US fiscal constraints, force structure cuts, and the move to a rotational presence the combination of which sometime in the future will make the decision to reduce the military commitment to the ROK much easier (and maybe even inevitable).  The bottom line question for the US is whether maintaining the alliance is in US strategic interests.  If not precede full steam ahead on the current plan.  If it is determined to be in the US interests then conduct the strategic analysis to determine the best way to meet ROK and US strategic objectives and support the  1953 ROK/US Mutual Defense Treaty     (which by the way says nothing about OPCON of forces).  From Article III:

“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…” (emphasis added)

What are the appropriate means that should be developed?  That is the question that must be answered.  From the ROK perspective it is not by following the current course.  What is it from the US perspective?

Handover of U.S. command of South Korean troops still under debate

JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images - US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (R) is greeted by US Forces Korea Commanding General James Thurman on arrival in Seoul, South Korea on September 29, 2013. Hagel is on a visit to South Korea and Japan where he is set to affirm military ties that are entering a new chapter in the face of North Korea's threats and China's growing power.

SEOUL — Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, the United States and South Korea still can’t agree on who should take charge if another war breaks out with the communist neighbor to the north.
For years, Washington has been trying to persuade the South Korean military to take operational control of its own forces in wartime, ending a six-decade arrangement during which U.S. commanders have retained that authority over South Korean troops. Although supportive in principle, a succession of governments in Seoul has repeatedly delayed the command transfer, reinforcing doubts about whether the South Korean military is capable of operating without U.S. leadership.

Previous deals that would have transferred wartime command of South Korean troops to Seoul in 2009 and 2012 fell by the wayside. Now the latest timetable — to transfer control to the South Korean military by December 2015 — has become infected with doubt as South Korean leaders have expressed anxieties again about their ability to command their own troops in the face of threats from an increasingly unpredictable North Korea.
South Korean officials began a public campaign this summer for another delay beyond 2015 but haven’t specified a new date for a command transfer. U.S. officials have not agreed to any changes so far. Some have said they are becoming frustrated with South Korea’s reluctance to take charge of its own defense.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Seoul for three days of talks. But he told reporters traveling with him that he doubted that the thorny issue could be resolved during his visit.
“We’re constantly re-evaluating each of our roles,” Hagel said. “That does not at all subtract from, or in any way weaken, our commitment.”
In a reminder of how a sudden outbreak of war remains a constant threat here, Hagel was scheduled Monday to tour the Demilitarized Zone, the 2.5-mile-wide buffer that divides North and South Korea and is the most heavily guarded border in the world.
There are 28,500 U.S. troops permanently stationed in South Korea. That’s a fraction of the size of the South Korean military, which has 640,000 personnel. The South Korean government, however, considers the U.S. military presence a crucial deterrent, and some South Korean officials worry that a lessening of the U.S. role could embolden North Korea.
(Continued at the link below)

Are We Hard-Wired for War?

Something for policymakers and decision makers to think about.


The problem with envisioning Homo sapiens as inherently and irrevocably warlike isn’t simply that it is wrong, but also that it threatens to constrain our sense of whether peacemaking is possible and, accordingly, worth trying.
I am counseling neither greater nor lesser involvement in specific wars. But I urge that any such decisions not be based on a fatalistic, empirically invalid assumption about humanity’s warlike nature.
There is a story, believed to be of Cherokee origin, in which a girl is troubled by a recurring dream in which two wolves fight viciously. Seeking an explanation, she goes to her grandfather, highly regarded for his wisdom, who explains that there are two forces within each of us, struggling for supremacy, one embodying peace and the other, war. At this, the girl is even more distressed, and asks her grandfather who wins. His answer: “The one you feed.”
September 28, 2013

Are We Hard-Wired for War?


WAR is in the air. Sad to say, there’s nothing new about this. Nor is there anything new about the claim that war has always been with us, and always will be.
What is new, it seems, is the degree to which this claim is wrapped in the apparent acquiescence of science, especially the findings of evolutionary biology with respect to a war-prone “human nature.”
This year, an article in The National Interest titled “What Our Primate Relatives Say About War” answered the question “Why war?” with “Because we are human.” In recent years, a piece in New Scientist asserted that warfare has “played an integral part in our evolution” and an article in the journal Science claimed that “death in warfare is so common in hunter-gatherer societies that it was an important evolutionary pressure on early Homo sapiens.”
The emerging popular consensus about our biological predisposition to warfare is troubling. It is not just scientifically weak; it is also morally unfortunate, as it fosters an unjustifiably limited vision of human potential.
Although there is considerable reason to think that at least some of our hominin ancestors engaged in warlike activities, there is also comparable evidence that others did not. While it is plausible that Homo sapiens owed much of its rapid brain evolution to natural selection’s favoring individuals that were smart enough to defeat their human rivals in violent competition, it is also plausible that we became highly intelligent because selection favored those of our ancestors who were especially adroit at communicating and cooperating.
Conflict avoidance, reconciliation and cooperative problem solving could also have been altogether “biological” and positively selected for.
Chimpanzees, we now know, engage in something distressingly akin to human warfare, but bonobos, whose evolutionary lineage makes them no more distant from us than chimps, are justly renowned for making love instead. For many anthropologists, “man the hunter” remains a potent trope, yet at the same time, other anthropologists embrace “woman the gatherer,” not to mention the cooperator, peacemaker and child rearer.
When, in the 1960s and ’70s, the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon began reporting his findings concerning the Yanomamo people of the Amazon, whom he claimed lived in a state of persistent warfare, his data were eagerly embraced by many — including myself — because they represented such a beguilingly close fit to our predictions about the likely positive correlation between early human violence and evolutionary fitness.
In retrospect, even though I have no reason to doubt Yanomamo ferocity, at least under certain circumstances, I seriously question the penchant of observers (scientific and lay alike) to generalize from small samples of our unquestionably diverse species, especially about something as complex as war.
I have little doubt that the perspective of many evolutionary biologists and some biological anthropologists has been distorted by the seductive drama of “primitive human war.” Conflict avoidance and reconciliation — although no less “natural” or important — are considerably less attention-grabbing.


Does this statement leave open the possibility of a delay or better yet a new path for transformation that retains the combined war fighting capabilities?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flew to Seoul on Sunday, and said there will be conversations about the possible extension of the 2015 deadline, but likely no decisions will be made.
"We're constantly re-evaluating each of our roles," Hagel told reporters traveling with him. "That does not at all subtract from, or in any way weaken, our commitment — the United States' commitment — to the treaty obligations that we have and continue to have with the South Koreans."
But I would remind Ms. Glaser that this is not simply about war time control.  There is no "transfer" to be made. What is happening is the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command and the establishment of separate national war fighting commands.   Despite her assessment there will be significant military implications beginning with the lack of unity of command going forward from 2015.  And with all due respect, I think the last thing the Korean military want is to have its relationship compared to the Japanese and I would ask any military professional which type of command arrangements they would like to have if fighting a major theater war and I doubt that it would be based on the US-Japanese military relationship.
Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that it's time to complete the transfer of wartime control to South Korea.
"This is not going to in any way weaken the ability of U.S. forces to work with South Korean forces," she said. "I think you could argue it could strengthen it. It would make it more similar to the kind of arrangement that we have between American and Japan forces."

      Sep. 29 6:44 AM EDT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Amid escalating threats from North Korea, U.S. and South Korean defense officials will meet over the next few days and discuss whether to extend America's wartime control over the South's armed forces, 60 years after a truce ended the Korean War.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flew to Seoul on Sunday, and said there will be conversations about the possible extension of the 2015 deadline, but likely no decisions will be made.
"We're constantly re-evaluating each of our roles," Hagel told reporters traveling with him. "That does not at all subtract from, or in any way weaken, our commitment — the United States' commitment — to the treaty obligations that we have and continue to have with the South Koreans."
U.S. officials have acknowledged that the South Koreans have informally expressed an interest in delaying the deadline when Seoul is supposed to assume wartime control of the forces that would defend the country in the event of an attack by North Korea.
The target date initially was in 2012, and was pushed back to 2015.
Defense officials said they expect to have discussions about it with the South Koreans that will help map out the way ahead.
Officials said that South Korea's military capabilities have continued to improve, including its ability to communicate and coordinate with the U.S. on missile defense, particularly with American Navy ships deployed to the region.
But the South still needs to strengthen a number of military and intelligence capabilities, including surveillance and reconnaissance as well as its missiles
U.S. control of the forces is a holdover from the Korean War, and America has been trying for years to build South Korea's capabilities. But it has proved difficult to wean the South off its dependence on the U.S. military, particularly as the threat from North Korea has escalated.
Earlier this year, Pyongyang conducted another nuclear test in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The detonation at a remote underground site was seen as a key step toward the North's goal of building a bomb small enough to fit on a long-range missile capable of striking the U.S.
And, earlier this month a U.S. research institute said that recent satellite images appeared to show that North Korea was restarting its plutonium reactor at the Nyongbyon nuclear facility.
That facility was closed in 2007 under the terms of the six-nation disarmament agreement.
On Friday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urged the U.N. General Assembly to make a united effort against North Korea's nuclear program, as it has against the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that it's time to complete the transfer of wartime control to South Korea.
"This is not going to in any way weaken the ability of U.S. forces to work with South Korean forces," she said. "I think you could argue it could strengthen it. It would make it more similar to the kind of arrangement that we have between American and Japan forces."
(Continued at the link below)

The Real North Korean Threat

This is obviously a problem that will affect unification and something that must be planned for.  However, I doubt that we will ever see "the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification playing a central role in future Six Party Talks."  Also we should keep in mind that the cause of this problem or threat is the Kim Family Regime and its bankrupt system that implements economic and agricultural policies that destroy the north Korean environment.

The Real North Korean Threat

In North Korea, the threat of desertification should be raised to the same level as nuclear nonproliferation.
By Emanuel Pastreich , September 23, 2013 .
Creeping desertification near Lhasa, Tibet. (treasuresthouhast / Flickr)
There is a terrible danger lurking just over the DMZ that threatens the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia. That threat demands an immediate response that is focused and forceful, as well as a long-term strategy that will bring together all members of the international community for a campaign dedicated to the permanent containment of this threat.
It is not North Korea’s Taepodong ICBM systems, nor its Musudan or Nodong missiles that I have in mind. Nor do I refer to the nuclear weapons that recently were tested as part of Pyongyang’s high-stakes diplomatic cat-and-mouse game with the international community. Although the danger of an arms race in Northeast Asia is serious, humanity faces another, potentially more devastating peril—one for which we have yet to begin to make required strategic preparations.
I refer to the spread of deserts and semi-desert regions in North Korea as a result of the reckless logging of forests, the misuse of soil, and irresponsible farming practices. These ecological dead zones, where few plants can survive, are spreading. As desertification worsens, this ecological nightmare will have serious, perhaps irreversible, repercussions in South Korea and throughout the region.
Professor Kim Seoung-il of Seoul National University estimates that over 1 million hectares of forests in North Korea have been lost over the last 20 years, leading to a nearly irreversible loss of soil and an endless series of floods and droughts.
This crisis in North Korea is only a more extreme manifestation of widespread trends in Asia, a region that is losing land to deserts more rapidly than Africa. At present almost 500,000 hectares of land are lost to deserts annually in the region, and at least 2.62 million hectares, accounting for 27 percent of the total landmass of China, has been irretrievably lost to deserts. Already, yellow dust carried by the wind to Seoul, and even to regions of Japan, from the spreading deserts of Northeast China has emerged as a serious ecological and health threat.
The loss of soil in North Korea cannot be stopped by B-2 bombers or missile defense systems. In contrast to military threats, these new environmental dangers demand not the isolation of North Korea but direct, long-term international engagement, partnership, and cooperation. The international community must work closely with the citizens, organizations, and government of North Korea to address this threat and must readily lend expertise and support. The world cannot walk away and leave North Korea to continue its destructive practices.
Needless to say, the destabilization of ecosystems from desertification knows no national borders. International distaste for the government in Pyongyang should not blind us to our common interest in combating the spreading deserts in East Asia. Training North Koreans in how to respond to the threat of climate change through effective environmental policies should be our highest priority where North Korea is concerned.
(Continued at the link below)

Friday, September 27, 2013

What do policymakers want from academics?

Fascinating chart below.  Interesting what policy makes assess as most useful:  policy analysis, area studies, historical case studies, contemporary case studies.

What do policymakers want from academics?

We are delighted to welcome the following guest post by Paul Avey (MIT) and Michael Desch (Notre Dame).
We are grateful to Henry Farrell and his colleagues at the Monkey Cage for their interest in, and thoughtful comments on, our forthcoming International Studies Quarterly piece.  We would also like to congratulate them on their move to The Washington Post.  Indeed, we are thrilled to be hopping on the MC bandwagon to engage in a longer discussion of our article.
It is not only the MC’s recent success, but also its original mission of connecting work within our discipline with broader audiences, that makes us so excited to have our piece the subject of discussion here.  Indeed, of all of presentations at this year’s APSA panel on the National Science Foundation decision to restrict funding for political science, it was the presentation of MC member John Sides that we found to be the most constructive in responding to that challenge. It is our hope that our own work will help advance this cause as well.
In our piece, we try to ascertain what the most senior national security policymakers want from international relations scholars.  An answer to this question matters because there has been recurrent interest among policymakers in drawing upon academic social science expertise in support of more effective national security policymaking. Despite this high-level interest, there has also been enduring frustration on both sides of the “theory-policy gap” with our inability to bridge it. One of the primary obstacles to building this bridge is the lack of systemic data about when and how academic social science is useful to policymakers.
As early as 1971, a National Academy of Science study concluded that “what are required are assessments of the research needs and resources from the point of view of policymakers.” (Advisory Committee on the Management of Behavioral Science Research in the Department of Defense, 1971:28)
Working with the Teaching and Research in International Politics (TRIP) project at the College of William and Mary, we have taken a first step to get a better sense of when and under what conditions policymakers pay attention to the work of academic social scientists.  Our unique survey of nearly 1,000 current and former national security decision-makers (of whom 25 percent responded) provides the most systematic evidence to date of what the highest-level national security decision-makers want from academic international relations scholars.
(Continued at the link below)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

(Yonhap Interview) Financial sanctions key to denuking N. Korea: former U.S. official

I think David Asher is right.  Short of force coercive financial sanctions are the only hope of influencing the behavior of the Kim Family Regime (I still find it difficult to believe that anything will cause the regime to give up its nuclear program but I think we can influence its behavior but attacking its money flow).  The sanctions on Banco Delta Asia had a significant effect on Kim Jong-il and was one of the only international actions that achieved significant effects on regime decision making and of course when those sanctions were lifted the regime reverted to its old ways.

(Yonhap Interview) Financial sanctions key to denuking N. Korea: former U.S. official

2013/09/26 08:00
SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- Countries involved in talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program should ramp up financial sanctions against the communist country in order to achieve their goal, a former Bush administration official said Thursday.
Multilateral efforts are underway to revive the six-party talks to disarm a nuclear-armed North Korea. The talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled since late 2008 after six rounds of failed negotiations.
"The whole process (of the six-party disarmament forum) has value, but none of this is likely to succeed in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program unless we are willing to threaten the regime of Korea North in a way that internally threatens it -- taking away their money and forcing them to fight among themselves," said David Asher, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on the sidelines of an academic forum on North Korea.
The forum was hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Asher was a senior advisor to former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly under the administration of former President George W. Bush. The former president led a series of hawkish sanctions against what he tagged "rogue states" seeking weapons of mass destruction, including North Korea.
He was one of the authors of the administration's sanctions policy to cut transactions of Macao-based Banco Delta Asia bank in 2007, which was suspected of being used for stashing funds for the regime of then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
"If we want, or have any hope trying to get them to change their nuclear posture, let alone give up their nuclear weapons, we are gonna have to aim at the financial heart of Kim Jong-un's regime, .... and personally I consider that to be a feasible potential strategy," said the ex-official.
The communist country is continuing to engage in illegal activities and weapons proliferation for its financial survival because "they literally don't have enough means to generate wealth internally to satisfy the need of the regime," he added.
The absence of a banking system in the North forces it to rely on the international financial system for survival and in many previous cases the U.S. has been proven to be able to target part of the international financial system, he said, adding that it "is something the U.S. can do uniquely because 95 percent of all global dollar wire transfers go through New York."

   "My personal view is that the Kim dynasty needs to be credibly threatened in order for them to ever make a strategic choice. They see the nuclear weapons system as a thing that will save them. They need to see the nuclear system as a thing that will destroy them," noted Asher.
Asher's highlight on financial sanctions against the North comes amid quickening efforts by China to resume the six-way forum, involving two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
The multilateral forum launched in 2003 held its last meeting in late 2008, as the North walked out of the dialogue and continued to develop its nuclear programs.
(Continued at the link below)

S. Korea, U.S. struggle to strike deal on USFK cost

Both nations are facing defense budget challenges.  Perhaps it is time to reconsider the funds to be expended for the so-called transformation and in particular the military construction costs and relocation of US forces.  Again, one of the courses of action would be to retain the ROK/US Combined Forces Command at Yongsan while at the same time turning over Yongsan garrison to the ROK military keeping CFC as a tenant organization.  Furthermore, rather than moving 2d Infantry Division to Camp Humphreys (with no training areas requiring it to transport forces back up to the northern training areas) maintain the camps in the north and if US grind combat forces go to a rotational presence, give them the mission to integrate into the Armistice DMZ patrolling structure.  

I know that opponents will argue that there are significant sunk costs with the transformation; however, we should consider a strategic reassessment to determine what is the best way ahead for the ROK/US military forces to best support Alliance strategic objectives and recall that the entire transformation process was initiated due to poor political relations between the ROK and US more than a decade ago and unrealistic desires by a ROK president combined with a Secretary of Defense who viewed US forces in Korea as wasted and was bent on creating a situation where US forces could be withdrawn in total.  That did not work but instead we have spent hundreds of millions of ROK and US won and dollars on a transformation plan that is not optimized to support ROK/US security objectives.


S. Korea, U.S. struggle to strike deal on USFK cost

2013/09/27 04:19
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States remain apart over how much Seoul will contribute financially to the presence of American troops on the peninsula, South Korea's top negotiator said Thursday.
"There are still big differences in the positions of the two sides," Hwang Joon-kook, special ambassador for the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), told reporters after two-day talks here with his U.S. counterpart, Eric John.
The allies are currently focusing not only on Seoul's appropriate share itself for the stationing of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) but also on ways to improve the overall system for splitting the cost, according to Hwang.
The allies have shared the cost of USFK under the SMA since 1991. The previous agreement, signed in 2009, expires at the end of this year.
Setting the level of South Korea's contributions has always been controversial, especially in the nation.
Hwang said his government agrees to the need for overhauling the way it shares the cost for USFK.
He refused to provide details.
This week's round of negotiations was the fourth of its kind aimed at deciding the amount and method of Seoul's contributions over the coming years.
(Continued at the link below)

Outgoing USFK commander receives top military award in S. Korea

An excellent and well deserved honor for General Thurman.

However, I have to again call attention to the misinformation about the so-called "OPCON Transfer."  The only way for the so-called "OPCON Transfer" to occur is through the elimination of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command.  

The new commander comes at a critical time for the alliance between Washington and Seoul, with major changes looming over the location of the American base and the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON). 

As Pyongyang continues to advance its weapons program following its third nuclear test, the two nations have been discussing whether to delay the scheduled transfer of OPCON to South Korea in December 2015. 

Let me offer an alternative proposal to the above.  We should consider that one of the reasons for the discussion of delay may be because the ROK leadership is concerned about the sustained US military commitment to the ROK.  The proposals for rotational US forces combined with the fiscal constraints may give the ROK leaders pause because one of the simplest ways t save money would be to halt rotations and not deploy the rotational forces to the Peninsula.  Furthermore, ROK Generals are concerned with the loss of unity of command when the alliance shifts to separate war fighting commands.  Rather than delay "OPCON Transfer" consider the following steps:
Maintain the ROK/US Combined Forces Command and put a ROK General in command.   
Keep the ROK/US CFC at Yongsan; however, turn over Yongsan garrison to the ROK military and maintain the ROK/US CFC  as well as the UN Command as tenant units. 
Commit to reestablishing a rotation presence of US ground combat forces on the DMZ conducting routine patrolling integrated into the ROK division command structure. 
I could provide additional details and the pros and cons of the above but I have done so before and I will again in the future.

Outgoing USFK commander receives top military award in S. Korea

2013/09/26 03:44
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- Gen. James Thurman, the outgoing commander of U.S. Forces Korea, on Thursday received a top military award from the local government for successfully leading American troops in defending South Korea amid heightened tension with North Korea.

President Park Geun-hye granted the Order of National Security Merit's Tongil Medal to Thurman in a ceremony, which was attended by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and other top commanders.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to serve in the Republic of Korea with the great ROK-U.S. combined joint team. The mutual trust, common values and commitment to security and prosperity are evident in the vitality and stability of this great nation," Thurman said during the ceremony held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"We will never forget that a terrible war was placed upon this nation, but the South Korean people have risen to be a world leader," he said. "We will continue to focus on readiness for the defense and stability of the Korean Peninsula at all times."

Park thanked Thurman for his contributions to the development of the two countries' alliance as she praised him for his leadership and dedication to the security of the Korean Peninsula.

"As you all know very well, Commander Thurman's time in office was a very difficult period in inter-Korean relations and in the surrounding region," she said, citing North Korea's third nuclear test in February and a series of provocations as well as leadership changes in Northeast Asia.

"I think we were all very lucky to have Commander Thurman at such a serious time," she said.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, a veteran commander who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, will officially replace Thurman in a change-of-command ceremony slated for early October, military officials said. 
(Continued at the link below)

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