Korea, US to draft plan for future alliance command

By Yonhap
  • Published : Oct 12, 2017 - 10:45
  • Updated : Oct 12, 2017 - 11:43
The South Korean and US militaries will soon formalize a plan to create a new combined command, which will become effective when Seoul regains its wartime operational control of the country's troops, the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday.

The allies plan to approve the scheme in their annual Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting later this month, it told lawmakers.

The MCM is an annual session involving the chairmen of the allies' joint chiefs of staff. This year's meeting will be held in Seoul on Oct. 27, a day before the ministerial SCM.

"(The two sides) will authorize the creation of the future command of combined forces during the MCM and the SCM," the ministry said in a report for a regular parliamentary audit of its affairs.

The allies will then draw up a specific scheme to establish a system to have a South Korean commander and a US deputy commander, it added.

The current Combined Forces Command, formed in 1978 as the headquarters of joint military operations, is led by a four-star US commander. A four-star South Korean general serves as deputy commander.

The left-leaning Moon Jae-in administration, which took office in May, has pushed for an early OPCON transfer. The US is reportedly supportive of the initiative, although South Korea needs to meet some preconditions, including the strengthening of its own defense capabilities.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in enters the headquarters of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command in Seoul on June 13, 2017, flanked by CFC commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks (R) and its deputy commander Gen. Leem Ho-yong. (Yonhap)

In a related program, the ministry said it will speed up the ongoing establishment of the "three-axis" defense platform against North Korea's nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction -- the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation scheme.

The ministry is pushing for a new director general-level post specializing in handling the North Korea issue, such as the assessment of its WMD program, policy measures and inter-Korean military talks.

It will consider expanding the JCS' WMD response center to an organization, tentatively named Strategic Command, in connection with the OPCON transition plan.

South Korea handed over its OPCON to the U.S.-led UN forces during the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea was supposed to regain its wartime OPCON at the end of 2015. But the transfer was postponed indefinitely as the allies agreed to seek a "conditions-based" shift, instead of setting a deadline, amid growing North Korean military threats.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker demanded the National Assembly audit the CFC on a regular basis like the defense ministry and other defense authorities here.

Rep. Kim Joong-ro of the minor opposition People's Party argued that the CFC, located in Seoul, has effectively stayed in a "gray area" when it comes to the monitoring and watching of its operation and budget use.

Although the allies' command is bankrolled partially by South Korea, it provides regular reports of military-related information only to the US Congress, not South Korea's legislature, he pointed out.

He stressed the need for the CFC to reveal such information to South Korean people transparently through a parliamentary audit.

"If the CFC is included in organizations subject to the audit, we can protect the people's right to know, and prevent its potential corruption and unilateral operations," he said, adding he plans to submit a related bill in the near future.

Many observers are skeptical that it will pass the National Assembly. Chances are slim that the US will approve the audit plan. (Yonhap)