New U.S. command entity delayed

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New U.S. command entity delayed

The planned creation of the U.S. Korea Command has been delayed to October or later, according to a source at the Ministry of Defense yesterday.

The source told the JoongAng Ilbo that the new command structure was supposed to be created on June 1, but Seoul and Washington agreed to push back its creation to October or later, because of the delay of the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean soldiers from the U.S. to South Korea.

The U.S. Korea Command will be a new organization of the U.S. military forces here to be used after Korea is given wartime control of its forces.

President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed over the weekend to delay that transfer of wartime operational control by three years to 2015. A March 26 sinking of a South Korean warship, allegedly by North Korea, has raised a concern over the capability of Korea to respond to a military threat from the North. The two Koreas have technically remained at war since the 1950-53 Korean War.

“The delay will allow more discussion between [South] Korea and the U.S. over the role of the U.S. Korea Command considering the rapid change of the security situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and the adjusted schedule of wartime operational control transfer,” the source said.

The source said the exact date for creating the U.S. Korea Command could be decided at the October meeting of the Security Consultative Meeting, an annual military meeting between Seoul and Washington, where the two countries are expected to talk about how to revise measures they have drafted to transfer wartime operational control.

But the command could be established within this year, the source said.

“The initial plan was to create a new entity two years before the wartime operational control transfer so that we could smooth the transfer process,” said the source. “But now we could be able to reduce the trial and error process of the transfer by establishing it as early as five years before the actual transfer.”

The U.S. Korea Command will be a combined U.S. command base that assumes the functions currently shared by the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, a combat entity, and U.S. Forces Korea Command, an administrative entity. Experts say the role of the U.S. military forces through the new entity, however, will be reduced after Korea gets wartime control.

An official of the U.S. Forces Korea said he would not confirm the date or method of the establishment of U.S. Korea Command, but said it will be pushed forward in a way that can minimize any strategic vacuum in Korea.


By Jeong Yong-soo [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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