Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gun Shy in Seoul Sixty years later, South Korea still isn't ready to take full control of its own defense.

To be blunt Mr. Lubold's  analysis is ignorant and insulting to the Koreans in terms of the OPCON transfer.  This is not about the ROK military not being ready to take full control of its own defense.  This is about whether the combined war fighting command should be dissolved.  Unfortunately for the mythical OPCON transfer to occur it requires the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the establishment of separate national war fighting commands.  

The Korean military is rightly  concerned (not gun shy) about two things:  First is the loss of unity of command (and thus unity of effort) when the ROK/US Combined Forces Command is dissolved.  Second, is the  concern that dissolution of CFC will be the next step in the reduction of the US military commitment to the Alliance (and this is exacerbated by the move to a rotational presence).  In actuality the ROK military is self confident enough to take a more long term strategic view of the situation and willingly accept the criticism and derision of those like Mr. Lubold in order to ensure the strength of the Alliance to ensure that the ROK and US military capabilities are organized in a way that can most effective deter defend, and fight, and win and serves the interests of both the ROK and US.  The ROK leaders know the importance of unity of command.

The other piece to this that I have not described for quite some time is the importance of the ROK/US Military Committee which was actually meeting this week in Seoul.  This is who  the Commander of the ROK/US CFC answers to and from whom he receives his strategic and operational guidance.  The Military Committee is made up of senior military officers from the ROK and US.  And it is because of this Military Committee that the ROK actually in effect does exercise co-equal "OPCON" over both its forces and the US forces as the US does the same over its forces and the ROK forces.  This is also why if the ROK/US CFC were to be commanded by a ROK General with a US Deputy that US forces would still not be placed under foreign control because that ROK General would still answer to the Military Committee that includes senior US officers.

Lastly, we should remember how this so-called OPCON transfer got started and grew legs.  This is a result of the perception of rising anti-American sentiment during the Kim Dae-jung and then Roh Moo-hyun administration combined with President Roh's political rhetoric about ROK control of military forces.  Second, this is a result of the disdain the Bush administration had for the Roh administration combined with the desire of Rumsfeld to get US forces off the Peninsula (where they were being "wasted," in his words) so that they could be put in the fight in the war on terrorism (read Iraq).  After the Roh administration was elected Rumsfeld, with no prior coordination with the US command in Korea, informed Roh's emissaries in January 2003 that he would move US forces out of Yongsan in Seoul and that he wanted to allow the ROK military to be responsible for the defense.  This is what started the chain of events and has brought us to this point.  But none of these plans or decisions were based on a strategic analysis of what the ROK and US militaries need to and can do, the best way to do it in terms of achieving both ROK and US strategic objectives in regards to the north Korean threat, and the outcome of either war or regime collapse.  These decisions were not just political but emotional and not based on sound strategic planning and logic.

But after only one command briefing in Seoul Mr. Lubold should not be expected to understand.  But I am sure he is enjoying his trip to Asia traveling with the SECDEF.
V/R
Dave

Gun Shy in Seoul

Sixty years later, South Korea still isn't ready to take full control of its own defense.

BY GORDON LUBOLD | OCTOBER 2, 2013

SEOUL — When it comes to taking charge of coalition forces here on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea has been a little gun shy. South Korea and the United States this week are celebrating the 60-year anniversary of an alliance forged after the Korean War; there were two parades, a big dinner, video retrospectives, and a lot of talk of katchi kapshida ("we stand together"). But after decades of confidence-building joint exercises and billions of dollars in military assistance, it's time for the South Koreans to step up and assume what's called "operational control" of all forces stationed here if war should break out. The problem is, the South Koreans aren't quite ready.
The U.S.-South Korea alliance, a centerpiece of the Pentagon's pivot to Asia, is more dynamic than ever, South Korean and U.S. officials took pains to say this week. "We can't underestimate the true strength of this -- of the blood alliance," Gen. J.D. Thurman, the retiring commander of forces in South Korea, told reporters.
Currently, the United States retains authority over all forces in South Korea. If there were to be a significant provocation from North Korea, for example, the U.S. commander in South Korea would assume control not only of his own 28,000-man force, but South Korea's as well. For years, the United States has wanted to hand over operational control of the forces -- "opcon" in military parlance -- to South Korea. But past efforts to formalize the transfer of control, in 2009 and 2012, never went through. Now the transfer is scheduled again for 2015. Once again, however, the South Koreans want to delay it.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a joint statement that formally accepts an approach long sought by South Korea to a "conditions-based" transfer; that's diplomatic code for giving the South Koreans as much time as they need. Now neither side will commit to saying just when operational control might occur.
The two countries also signed a pact to deter North Korea's potential use of nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction as concerns grow about what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is capable of. That pact was also a little vague, and defense officials trying to explain what it does used words like "framework" to describe the new approach, which itself was a work in progress. In the end, it will be seen as a confidence-building measure for the South Koreans at a time when they need it. "It's a new strategy that creates enhanced deterrence," said a military official in a briefing to reporters.
Kim, North Korea's inexperienced young dictator, remains a mystery to the U.S. intelligence community but has shown himself to be an unpredictable leader as he works to live up to the bad-boy image of his forebears. Kim's successful missile launch in December and his nuclear test in February raised tensions to some of their highest levels in years and shook the South Koreans.
(Continued at the link below)

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