Obama went along with South Korean pleas not to do away with the Combined Forces Command that puts South Korean forces under U.S. control in case of war.
Bechtol strongly disputes the notion that the CFC would place a U.S. general in command of South Korean troops. Rather, he tells me, “In wartime the U.S. general is in control or all troops” – but “not command.” Indeed, he says, “The U.S. commander of CFC is no more in command” of South Korean troops “than the NATO commander is in command of UK troops or Dutch troops.”
“Any other system would be a substitute that would be unlikely to be as streamlined, transparent and efficient,” he writes in an email to me. He predicts, after military leaders get down to specific talks on the CFC, that “perhaps the two nations will now go to a ‘condition-based’ criteria” for doing away with CFC “rather than simply setting a date that everything will change.”
It was against this background that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye and President Obama visited the command center for joint operations in what Yonhap described as “a symbolic move underscoring their unity in deterring North Korea.”
That sortie went virtually unnoticed by the flock of U.S. correspondents covering Obama’s Asian odyssey, but as Yonhap notes it was “the first time for the leaders of South Korea and the U.S. to make a joint visit” to CFC since its was set up 36 years ago. While there they were briefed on how prepared are North and South Korea to counter North Korean attack.