Please go to War on the Rocks to read the entire essay: http://warontherocks.com/2014/
Needless to say I cannot express my disagreement with this essay strongly enough. I will just make a few brief comments.
First, US troops are in Korea now not simply because of the Mutual Defense Treaty but because it is in the US interests to contribute to the alliance to deter an attack by north Korea. The author would do well to include an analysis of how US interests would be enhanced by removing US forces from Korea.
Second, an analysis of north Korean interests and strategy would be useful to understand how the north will react to what is in effect a key strategic objective it has been seeking since the Armistice and that is a split int he ROK/US alliance. Although the author mentions some of the comments and concerns of ROK and US policymakers he does not conduct an analysis of what the north might do and how it will exploit this de facto split in the ROK/US alliance (although he mentions extended deterrence I do not think that will have the same deterrent effect as a combined ROK/US force).
Third, I am surprised that there is no discussion of the actual command relationship of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command. We should keep in mind that the ROK US Combined Forces Command has no "Title 10" authority over ROK forces. Just as US Title 10 authority is to provide organized, trained, and equipped forces to the ROK/US Combined Forces Command, the ROK JCS has the ROK responsibility to provide organized, trained, and equipped forces to the ROK/US CFC.
While continuously being forward-deployed to South Korea, U.S. forces also created the Combined Forces Command (CFC), led by an American four-star general.Under the current agreement, South Korean forces would be under this four-star’s command, and he would take the wartime OPCON and oversee the battlefield if a shooting war (presumably with North Korea) emerges. General Curtis Scaparrotti is the current commander of UNC/CFC/USFK and responsible for seamlessly leading, organizing, training, and equipping all forces on the peninsula under Title 10 authority.
This is the usual US perspective that illustrates the lack of understanding of the command relationship. The ROK/US Combined Forces Command was established in 1978 by both the ROK and US governments in agreement. The ROK/US/CFC is a completely combined command, with near equal distribution of ROK and US personnel through the entire command (the command. not the subordinate units of course). But the important point is that the ROK/US CFC answers equally to both governments through the Military Committee. The ROK/US CFC is not a US Command (like most press. pundits, and the population in Korea the author makes the same mistake of equating the ROK/US CFC and US Forces Korea which is the Title 10 authority over US military forces in Korea but it has no relationship with the ROK/US CFC except as a force provider - just as the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff is a force provider of ROK forces to the ROK/US CFC when it determines that it is in the ROK interests to commit forces to the command). ROK forces are not under US "OPCON" and as I have said there is no such thing as OPCON transfer - it is a myth - there is only the dissolution of the ROK/US CFC. If we are going to have a discussion of OPCON transfer then all the key elements and relationships and processes and procedures should be discussed and analyzed. This paper falls short of a thorough discussion of command relationships and instead relies on the popular talking points of the press and pundits and those who do not want to remain committed to the alliance (both in the ROK and the US).
There is much more to say on this but I will have to stop here. The bottom line is I strongly disagree with the author's proposal.
TIME FOR U.S. FORCES TO LEAVE SOUTH KOREA
July 24, 2014 · in Commentary
American foreign policy towards the Republic of Korea (hereafter, South Korea) has focused on a substantial amount of military and economic support and is primarily based on the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea (1953). The mutual defense treaty continues to be the cornerstone of the security relationship between the two, which guarantees peace and stability by extended deterrence—28,500 United States Forces Korea (USFK) troops on ground and the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
The combined threats of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and conventional forces, as well as the specter of the collapse of the Kim Jong-Un family regime, compel the United States government to continue its strong military defense of, and economic devotion to, South Korea. The need to protect South Korea against its neighbor to the north also drives—in part—America’s ongoing “rebalance” or “pivot” towards Asia.
President Barack Obama recently reaffirmed America’s dedication to Seoul and the mutual defense treaty during his official visit to South Koreain April 2014. During that visit, the president promoted his “pivot” and pledged a continuing U.S. commitment to a strong alliance with South Korea. Obama reminded South Korean President Park Guen-Hye that recent developments in North Korea, such as significant increased activity at Punggye-ri nuclear test site coupled with multiple long-range missile tests, beckoned for fiercer efforts toward denuclearization.
Although the mutual defense treaty has secured the alliance for nearly six decades, transformations from both sides in the last decade suggest that a fundamental change is overdue. Based on new fiscal realities and Seoul’s proven ability to defend its national borders, the U.S. government should immediately conduct the transfer of the wartime operational control (OPCON) to South Korea. The country’s robust military force and its ongoing procurement of advanced military systems, combined with its first-rate economy, afford South Korea the ability to defend itself from most aggressors without substantial involvement of American conventional forces. The OPCON transfer would not change the security guarantee of extended deterrence under the United States’ nuclear umbrella. In addition to the transfer, President Obama should turn away from his status quo approach and implement a new security alliance toward South Korea—one that strongly cultivates an autonomous military without extended assistance from the United States.
Dating back to the Korean War, South Korean forces were under heavy scrutiny and control of the United Nations Command (UNC). U.S. forces played a significant role in establishing a democracy in South Korea. Even today, following this paradigm, U.S. troops and conventional weapons retain extensive control of Seoul. While continuously being forward-deployed to South Korea, U.S. forces also created the Combined Forces Command (CFC), led by an American four-star general. Under the current agreement, South Korean forces would be under this four-star’s command, and he would take the wartime OPCON and oversee the battlefield if a shooting war (presumably with North Korea) emerges. General Curtis Scaparrotti is the current commander of UNC/CFC/USFK and responsible for seamlessly leading, organizing, training, and equipping all forces on the peninsula under Title 10 authority.
Despite the substantial number of forward-deployed U.S. personnel in South Korea, both sides have been gradually working toward giving full autonomy to the South Korean military. In 1994, for the first time in nearly four decades, U.S. forces transferred the peacetime OPCON to South Korea. The next and final step in achieving full autonomy for the South Korean military is to solely take over the wartime OPCON. Nonetheless, there has been much controversy over the necessity and practicality of such a step. Scaparrotti, who endorses a cautious 2015 transfer of power, stressed to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the South will have to meet a variety of benchmarks before any OPCON transfer can go through; it is important to note that the transition is conditions-driven.”
(Continued at the link below)