Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Korea, U.S. to hold second OPCON meeting this week
Again, if anyone wants to talk about OPCON transfer I think they should first have to be able to explain the ROK and US command relationships in Korea. I will bet the number of press and pundits who can do so can be counted on one hand (go ahead and prove me wrong - I will happily administer a test to any member of the press or pundit corps).
But on a less sarcastic note what the action officers need to come up with in time for the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) is an understandable way to explain how both nations exercise co-equal operational control of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command (ROK/US CFC) through the Military Committee.
The SCM needs to come clean with the ROK and US press, pundits, politicians, and people. The whole OPCON transfer issue was a misnomer. There is no provision or process to "transfer wartime OPCON" to the ROK. This is a much different situation than in 1994 when "peacetime OPCON" was "returned" to the ROK. In actuality what happened in 1994 was a normalization of the military relationship of ROK forces to the ROK/US CFC to equal the same relationship as US forces. It was normalized in this way. The ROK JCS and US Forces Korea each are "force providers" to the ROK/US CFC, meaning when directed by their nation's command authorities they will provide forces to the ROK/US CFC and the ROK/US CFC will exercise operational control of those forces to accomplish the mission. This only happens when designated. Prior to 1994 ROK forces were under the OPCON of theROK/US CFC. However, in terms of wartime OPCON the only way that can be directly exercised by the ROK is to dis-establish the ROK/US CFC and have the ROK and US establish separate war fighting commands which will undo sixty plus years of perfecting combined operations capabilities to address very real threats from the north (both war and collapse).
What the SCM should consider announcing is that the decision to keep the ROK/US CFC intact in critically important to the strategic interests of both nations to ensure they have the most capable war fighting command to ensure deterrence, defense, the ability to defeat the nKPA if attacked as well as to conduct the full spectrum of operations necessary to deal with regime collapse. The SCM should admit that the OPCON transfer issue was a mistake built upon a shaky foundation during a period of mutual disdain and distrust by both nations (rising anti-American sentiment in the ROK and the desire by the US SECDEF to divert US forces from Korean responsibilities to support the Global War on Terrorism). These conditions no longer exist and thus the initial "rationale" (or assumptions perhaps) for OPCON transfer are no longer valid. Therefore discussion about alliance military capabilities should be focused on enhancing the combined capabilities to more effectively accomplish the missions directed by the Military Committee.
Second, the SCM should announce that USFK and 8th US Army will relocate to Pyongtaek (Camp Humphreys) when facilities construction is complete in accordance with the Land Partnership Plan. However, the ROK/US CFC will remain in Seoul.
Third, when USFK and 8th Army relocate, Yongsan Army Garrison will be disestablished and the garrison will be turned over to the ROK military control. (It would be good for the ROK to be able to rename the garrison) The small number of US members of the ROK/US CFC will remain in Seoul and live as tenants on the renamed ROK military installation.
The perhaps after October the ROK/US CFC can remove the distraction of the past 11 years and get on with the important business of focusing on accomplishing the alliance objectives. The bottom line; however, for the ROK and US is that both nations always retain command of their forces, both nations determine when they want to provide their forces to the ROK/US CFC and the ROK/US CFC takes its strategic direction and guidance from the Military Committee which is made up of members from both nations' National Command and Military Authorities. And the real bottom line is that the US DOES NOT have overall operational control of ROK forces just as the ROK does not have overall operational control of US forces.
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