Sunday, September 29, 2013

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)

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