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Ars Moriendi
10-31-2014, 01:02 AM
South Korea’s Armed Forces to Remain Fully under US Military Command

By Stuart Smallwood



The South Korean government announced last week the intention to put off once again (http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-south-korea-to-detail-wartime-military-command-plans-1413878199) the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from the United States, this time until “the mid-2020s.” (http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/661566.html) Until then South Korean troops will be under the command of an American four star general in the event of a military conflict. The postponement signifies the long term strategy of the ruling conservative party to ensure the fate of South Korean security is firmly fixed to an American occupation force on the Korean Peninsula.

This decision isn’t shocking given the trend of successive conservative administrations. The transfer of South Korean military OPCON was originally scheduled (http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2013071868238) for 2012 based on an agreement by the left-leaning Roh Moo-hyun government. But the deal was put off by the much-maligned conservative administration of the American stooge (http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/501827.html) Lee Myung-bak. Park Geun-hye, current president and leader of the right wing Saenuri (New World) Party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saenuri_Party#History) (a spin-off of Lee Myung-bak’s Grand National Party with roots in South Korea’s past American-backed dictatorships),promised during her election campaign (http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/661566.html) to carry out the transfer in 2015. Now she has punted the transfer to a time well beyond the reach of her presidency.

Whether South Korea actually goes through with the transfer of OPCON in the next decade will likely depend on whether Saenuri wins another tampered election (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/world/asia/south-korean-intelligence-officers-are-accused-of-political-meddling.html?_r=0) given their intrinsic attachment to the United States. What is certain is that this is not a question of whether South Korea is capable of managing its own military in the event of war.

South Korean officials say the U.S. must have control of both American and S.K. military operations to most effectively deter North Korea and maintain coordinated military activities. They insist this would be impossible under a typical alliance system where both nations have independent control of military decisions. Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo told the Wall Street Journal last week (http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-south-korea-to-detail-wartime-military-command-plans-1413878199), “The most important thing is whether we can really deter North Korea from going to war, and I think we need more time to be able to do so.”

Specifically, officials from the current administration have argued (http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsalmon/2014/05/09/north-korean-weapons-of-mass-and-mini-destruction-menace-south-stymie-troubled-seoul-washington-command-handover-again/2/) that before a transfer happens South Korea must be able to destroy North Korean missiles on their pads before they are launched (the so-called “kill chain” capability) and also develop their own missile defense program to intercept North Korean missiles. In other words, before they they have operational command, they want to be able to destroy North Korea’s conventional and defensive second strike ability (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/27/inflating_the_china_threat)in the event South Korea were to launch a preemptive war. This is a goal that is almost entirely unrealistic and is more akin to total domination than actual deterrence.

Vice Minister Baek also said regarding the non-transfer, “Any possible reduction or pullout of U.S. military troops in South Korea could give a wrong signal to North Korea or other countries in the region…. We should approach this issue very carefully.”

But there is nothing in this that requires American troops to pullout if South Korea took control of its own wartime military command. Indeed, nothing short of physically removing U.S. troops from their perch is likely to have that effect.

The U.S. has at least a handful of unofficial reasons for keeping troops in South Korea, including maintaining a foothold on the mainland of East Asia directed at both China and Russia and padding the budgets of contractors (http://monthlyreview.org/2014/07/01/were-profiteers/) that do everything from supplying the weapons to peeling the potatoes for American troops. South Korean officials may or may not truly believe the delusion that the U.S. is constantly on the verge of sending its “bravest and brightest (http://www.koreaandtheworld.com/2012/05/30/are-u-s-soldiers-doing-recon-in-north-korea-or-just-drinking-beer/)” home (a laughable concept for the critical-minded), but this notion comes up regularly here in discussions on national security.

In turn, South Korea doesn’t want U.S. troops in-country just to protect against North Korea. This may even be a secondary factor in the overall picture considering North Korea is, bluff and bluster aside, a military power in perpetual decline. The South is far richer and has a much more modern and well-oiled military compared to the North’s (http://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-comparison-detail.asp?form=form&country1=North-Korea&country2=South-Korea&Submit=Compare+Countries) crumbling combat infrastructure. The only advantages North Korea has are its manpower–a factor virtually irrelevant in modern warfare–and its still-undeliverable (http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/us-general-north-korea-can-miniaturize-nuke-warheads/) nuclear weapons, which North Korea developed in response (http://www.koreaandtheworld.com/2012/04/06/americas-failed-foreign-policy-and-north-korean-nukes-part-one/) to the threatening posture of the United States.

While it is hard to know exactly how much S.K. officials actually believe of their own anti-North Korean rhetoric, Vice Minister Baek’s allusion to “other countries in the region” is surely significant in that most Koreans still see the U.S. presence as a means to buffer against (http://www.offiziere.ch/?p=16676) both China and Japan and view maintenance of OPCON as the way to ensure the U.S. doesn’t leave the peninsula (which is probably why Vice Minister Baek seems to be directly linking OPCON with an American troop pullout).

The crucial issue facing South Korea in this era is how long they can have what the current administration seems to consider the best of both worlds–maintaining strong economic ties with China, the South’s number one trading partner, while remaining, at best, a junior ally of the U.S. as it attempts to preserve military hegemony (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-margolis/the-north-pacific-is-no-l_b_806885.html) in the pacific, a policy that antagonizes Beijing (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2013/04/2013416111814131662.html?utm_content=automate&utm_campaign=Trial6&utm_source=NewSocialFlow&utm_term=plustweets&utm_medium=MasterAccount). We see South Korea attempting to balance this role on a regular basis as it agrees to purchase the terrible F-35 (https://www.google.co.kr/search?q=F35+terrible&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb&gfe_rd=cr&ei=5YpQVOiiIaTH8ged14H4CA) and the ineffective Global Hawk drone (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-06/pentagon-says-northrop-s-global-hawk-drone-isn-t-effective-.html), almost certainly based upon pressure from U.S. diplomats (http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/544679.html), while so far putting off implementing the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, partly because this would represent a serious provocation for both China and Russia (http://rt.com/news/175488-korea-us-antimissile-conserns/) (but also because they want their own defense companies to reap the profits (http://www.nknews.org/2014/07/deploying-thaad-on-the-korean-peninsula/) of the ongoing conflict with North Korea).

The assumption in South Korea seems to be that this is a tightrope the country has to walk, but it might be useful to consider once again whether or not this is really the case. With the 11th highest military budget (http://www.globalfirepower.com/defense-spending-budget.asp) in the world, South Korea likely has more than sufficient deterrent capability against any country in the region and there is just too much economic interdependence between China, Japan and South Korea for conflict to ever be a viable option.

Despite this, people in South Korea generally think about national security based two great myths: that the North is still a strong military force, and that the South remains a weak state incapable of taking care of itself against the rest of its regional neighbors. Far too many people in South Korea and abroad believe North Korea will flood over the Demilitarized Zone separating the Koreas or that the region would somehow erupt in chaos by default were the U.S. to lessen its footprint and were South Korea to pursue greater military independence.

This is the case for several reasons. It is a result of the complex of inferiority engendered by Japan’s pre-WWII occupation and centuries of interference by China. It is also a manifestation of the trauma resulting from the horrors of the Korean War, though official South Korean memory has crucially whitewashed the atrocities (http://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2012/04/27/us-and-south-korea-assault-an-idyllic-island--not-for-the-first-time) committed by the U.S (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-korean-atrocity-forgotten-us-war-crimes-and-crimes-against-humanity/5335525). and the South Korean government before and after this conflict. It is also the outcome of continual fear-mongering by the South Korean media. Finally, South Koreans are educated in school and during mandatory military service that South Korea shook off Japan and the North, achieved great economic development, and became a free and democratic state thanks to U.S. protection and friendship–a simplistic narrative that is full of exaggeration and outright falsehood (http://www.globalresearch.ca/korean-history-architect-of-1980-gwangju-massacre-former-dictator-chun-doo-hwa/5309952).

Ultimately OPCON transfer is a matter of sovereignty. There is no more critical issue for a nation than deciding whether and how to engage in military combat. Even the most apolitical of South Koreans instinctively know this and are often surprised when they hear their government doesn’t even officially control its own military.

Conflict is only more likely if the South continues to insist on linking its defense with the American goal of perpetuating hegemony (http://fpif.org/reinforcing_washingtons_asia-pacific_hegemony/)in the region. The U.S. could quite easily drag the South Koreans into a conflict in the Pacific if a conflagration erupted between China and Japan (and Taiwan), over the Senkaku-Diaoyu island dispute (http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/taiwan-challenges-its-neighbors-8164), where the U.S. has agreed to assist Japan even if they provoke the conflagration. This is categorically outside the interests of South Korea, but such are the perils of collective security (http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2014/04/24/ukraine-out-of-control/), especially in a region where the U.S., through the San Fransisco treaty of 1951, specifically decided to leave post-WWII island ownership in the pacific unresolved in order to maintain “strategic ambiguity” and “manageable instability” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/conn-hallinan/parsing-the-east-asian-po_b_5630935.html)to justify their ongoing military presence.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The question is not whether South Korea is militarily prepared for independence; it is whether or not the South Korean people are mentally prepared to shake off the ruling elite in their country to become an independent nation and avoid going down with the sinking American ship (http://www.alternet.org/economy/american-empire-crumbling-our-eyes-right-here-home).

Stuart Smallwood is an MA in Asian Studies graduate from Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea. Currently based in South Korea and working as a Korean-English translator, his articles and essays have appeared in Global Research, the Hankyoreh, and East Asia: Comparative Perspectives. His website is Koreaandtheworld.com (http://www.koreaandtheworld.com/) and he can be reached by email at [email protected]

Ars Moriendi
10-31-2014, 01:14 AM
Maps of the current American military sites in South Korea:


Ars Moriendi
11-08-2014, 01:06 AM
U.S. Army to deactivate long-serving 'Iron Brigade' in South Korea


Vehicles of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army are unloaded from MV Green Ridge at Pier 8 in Busan, about 420 km (262 miles) southeast of Seoul, March 20, 2012.

(Reuters) - An Army combat brigade that has anchored the U.S. military presence in South Korea for nearly 50 years will be deactivated and replaced with a rotational unit as the service shrinks in size due to budget cuts, defense officials said on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved deactivation of the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team effective next summer, officials said. The unit, the so-called "Iron Brigade," has been permanently stationed in South Korea since 1965, staffed by individual soldiers sent to serve a year.

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the move was long-planned and did not represent a reduction in U.S. commitment to South Korean security. In fact, he said, similarly sized, fully trained units would be rotated into South Korea for nine-month tours.

Defense officials said the rotation of units that had trained together beforehand, rather than individuals who had to get to know their fellow soldiers upon arrival, could improve unit cohesion and readiness of U.S. forces in South Korea.

"There's not loss in capability," Warren said. "Some would argue that the capability might even be slightly higher because it's a trained unit that arrives there in Korea."

Warren said the first rotational unit would be the 4,600- member 2nd Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. It is due to begin its tour in South Korea in June 2015.

The shift is part of an Army plan originally conceived in 2013 to have some brigades overseas on a rotational basis rather than stationed permanently abroad. A continuous rotational presence would enable different units to gain experience training with allies.

The decision to deactivate the "Iron Brigade" in South Korea is part of the Army's effort to cut the overall size of its force as a result of budget reductions enacted in 2011.

The action will reduce the need for 4,500 military jobs. Soldiers currently with the brigade would be deployed to other units. But Army officials said it would allow the service to shed that number of positions by attrition and other means, moving closer to its planned force size.

The Army currently has about 505,000 active duty soldiers and is in the process of shrinking to 490,000. It is expected to reduce further during the coming year, dropping to between 440,000 and 450,000.

The job cuts come as the Pentagon tries to reduce projected spending by nearly a trillion dollars over a decade. Congress and the president agreed to the cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Ars Moriendi
11-10-2014, 02:17 PM
South Korea starts major military drills

Up to 300 thousand people will participate in the military excercise to guard against North Korea's potential regional or all-out military provocations, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

SEOUL, November 10. /TASS/. Annual military exercise called Hoguk that is to be accomplished by November 21, started in the Republic of Korea. This exercise is aimed at fostering country’s defensive capacity against possible DPRK attacks, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of national armed forces.
All branches of the armed forces including the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps will be involved in the 12-day maneuvers.

“The war drill will focus on enhancing the military branches' joint combat capabilities to guard against North Korea's potential regional or all-out military provocations, the military said”. The exercise will partly be carried out together with the American military forces counting 28.5 thousand of soldiers stationed in South Korea.
The drills will be held at the south of the Korean Peninsula including border areas. It will focus on joint amphibious assaults, secret naval operations, breakthrough operations and the defense of the islands in the Yellow Sea.

For the first time since 1996 about 330,000 servicemen will take part in the drill. Hoguk used to involve from 60,000 to 80,000 military servicemen.

"As North Korea is believed to have carried out intensive military drills in recent months, we've decided to launch the largest-ever scale of the drills in response in order to boost our capabilities," said a JCS representative.

11-10-2014, 02:52 PM
The Korean peninsula is a fire keg and can erupt at any moment. Command structure is critical to the South Koreans and they are at extreme risk with the population centers so close to the artillery and rocket forces on the other side. With N. Korean drones flying into S. Korea and cross border incidents and artillery firing a frequent occurrence, the South is wise to strengthen its alliance and it does. The behaviour of the North over the past 50 years is an indication of what can occur tomorrow.

So I can understand the Korean reluctance to kick out the US forces, although there is a lot of resentment about them being there at the same time. They do realize that the North will never attack them as long as the US force is there, I think.

Ars Moriendi
11-10-2014, 03:14 PM
South Korea today has the 11th biggest military budget in the world, and their military science is well ahead anything Pyongyang has (except nuclear research). NK wouldn't benefit in the least from a bloodbath, specially now when power struggles in the government are worse than ever. It's a mirage.

11-10-2014, 03:19 PM

My vote is on Kim "Ash" Jong-il.