[EDITORIALS]Korea’s weak militaryGeneral Burwell Bell, the chief of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, said that dismantling the command is not desirable until the two allies form independent commands that have operational control of their forces during wartime.
If wartime command is transferred to the Korean military, followed by that of peacetime, dismantling the Combined Forces Command becomes inevitable. Gen. Bell’s remarks point out that to be equipped for wartime command in the event of a crisis is more urgent for South Korea before taking back operational control.
Gen. Bell had not mentioned in public the relation between the Korean military’s taking back operational control during wartime and the existence of the Combined Forces Command. As he made it clear about creating two independent commands and the United States taking a supporting role, dismantling the Combined Forces Command has become an irreversible fact. Thus, his remarks about maintaining the Combined Forces Command reveals his thoughts that the Korean military’s capability to exercise independent operational command is not good enough yet.
The Korean government has sought to take back operational command for a couple of years. The schedule has changed a great deal and most recently was said to be planned for between 2010 and 2012. However, measures to enhance Korea’s military capabilities ― which are critical to take back wartime command ― are very flimsy. Without presenting concrete plans about financial resources, it has used fancy words like “independent self-defense with cooperation.”
The Ministry of National Defense revealed that at the completion of its five-year plan, which starts next year with 150 trillion won ($157 billion), a base for independent self-defense will be prepared. It is vague on how to fill the total budget for national defense, which will increase 60 percent in five years. It is even more doubtful on how to undertake surveillance of the North, which is the most critical aspect in the event of a war. A system to warn of an emergency in advance, which was scheduled to begin next year, has not even been selected yet. Unmanned patrols will be in service as late as 2016.
The defense minister said yesterday there was no timeline set for the transfer of wartime command. This is true. The government should stop saying that the transfer will take place in a couple of years. In particular, when Gen. Bell makes such remarks, it should not transform the issue into dismantling of the Combined Forces Command.