Be preparedThe United States has indicated it would relocate the command headquarters of the U.S. Eighth Army from South Korea to Hawaii around the year 2012, when the U.S. will fully transfer its wartime military operational control over to the South Korean Army.
The plan is in line with the U.S. overseas military relocation plan and troop reshuffle strategy. Unlike the time of the Korean War, the current 8th Army has transferred most of its major command roles over to the 2nd Army Division.
And now the Pentagon plans to merge the 8th Army with the army command headquarters for the Pacific region, aimed to minimize command structures and establish an extensive military command headquarters to cover the entire Pacific Ocean region, including the Korean Peninsula.
The upcoming change is expected to bring in a sea change to South Korea’s national security. First, we need to pay more attention to the so-called strategic flexibility sought by the U.S. forces in South Korea.
The U.S. Air Force in South Korea has been conducting overseas joint drills with other countries like Singapore, indicating the U.S. is poised to utilize the U.S. forces in South Korea as a part of its Pacific military operations.
However, South Korea and the U.S. seem to have a very vague agreement on how this strategic flexibility will affect the military operations in South Korea.
The U.S. pledged to “respect” South Korea’s situation and stance, but there are ample possibilities that the two countries will interpret this differently from the very beginning.
Thus, the two countries should coordinate more closely in the Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement or a possible response from China, and explain the upcoming changes to the public in advance to ward off any disputes or public opposition.
Another issue to take a look at is deterrence against North Korea’s military threat. Both Washington and Seoul claim that there will be no problem in the South’s deterrence against a possible threat from Pyongyang since the U.S. 2nd Army Division will still be here, and the 8th Army also returns to Korea for military emergencies.
Nevertheless, the relocation of the 8th Army command headquarters, following the dismantling of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, will pose a new threat to our national security. Now it is time for us to strengthen the defense system so that it will work amid a flurry of changes.