Monday, January 6, 2014

U.S. to deploy mechanized infantry battalion to S. Korea

A double edged sword here.  USFK is undoing years of decline of US combat capabilities but the rotational force presence concerns the Koreans.  There is a lot going on with the alliance right now that needs to be worked out from the special measures agreement to the transformation of the CFC (e.g., OPCON transfer) to preparing for regime collapse while maintaining the necessary strong deterrence and defense capabilities.  With US fiscal challenges the Koreans worry about the easy decision to not rotate forces in order to save money.  One of the ways to potentially alleviate those fears and strengthen interoperability might be to return US forces to rotations on the DMZ conducting actual combat patrols integrated with the frontline ROK forces.

   The U.S. Army will deploy a mechanized infantry battalion made up of advanced battle tanks to South Korea to bolster defense on the peninsula as part of a rotational force, a military source said Tuesday.

   The battalion armed with M1A2 battle tanks and M2A3 armored infantry fighting vehicles will depart their base on Thursday to join the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division stationed in South Korea, the source said, asking for anonymity.

   About 800 American service members will serve in North Gyeonggi Province, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, for nine months as part of planned enhancements to American forces in the country, he said.

   The latest deployment shows the U.S. commitment to the military rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region amid rising tensions in the strategically important region.

   It also comes at a time when South Korean and U.S. forces have been beefing up their vigilance against potential political instability in North Korea following the execution of young leader Kim Jong-un's once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek.

   Last September, a U.S. Army attack reconnaissance squadron returned to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, after missions in Iraq with 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.

   In April 2013, a U.S. chemical battalion was also redeployed to Camp Stanley in Euijeongbu, just north of Seoul, nine years after it withdrew from the peninsula in 2003.

   About 28,500 American service members are stationed in South Korea to help deter aggression from North Korea.

   By Kim Eun-jung
   SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap)

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