Military overhauls command

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Military overhauls command

The Ministry of National Defense said yesterday it will create a top military command structure next year to enhance the interoperability of its armed forces, a key part of its plans to improve combat capability against North Korea.

A four-star officer who will lead the new Joint Forces Command (JFC) is to wield more command authority than the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the ministry said in a report to President Lee Myung-bak on its policy plans for next year.

In addition, a total of eight operational commands in the Army, Navy and Air Force will be streamlined into three commands - one for each military branch - to improve efficiency in their joint operations, ministry officials said.

Currently, there are five operational commands in the Army, two in the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, and one in the Air Force.

In South Korea, the JCS chairman has operational control over all military branches but no power to manage military personnel. The lack of authority in personnel management has been cited as one major factor hindering interoperability of the troops.

Officials said the JFC commander will not only have operational command but also the responsibility for managing military personnel of the three armed services.

“The most important task for next year is to reform the top military command structure,” a senior ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

The ministry also aims to “thoroughly cope with all possible provocations from North Korea” and “nurture armed forces that get ready to fight and win,” the official said.

Tensions have remained acute since North Korea’s artillery strike last month on Yeonpyeong Island near the Yellow Sea border, which killed two marines and two civilians.

The bombardment came just eight months after the North torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.

The North denies it.

The two attacks revealed weaknesses in the South’s defense and highlighted shortcomings of the current command structure led by the JCS chairman.

Any change in the top command structure needs parliamentary approval. If endorsed, it will mark the first reorganization of the top command system in 23 years.

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