Efficiency is key to transferThe 44th Security Consultative Meeting between South Korea and the United States in Washington on Wednesday offered more substantial steps than ever to fortify the two allies’ military ties, including a scheme to take advantage of the U.S. nuclear umbrella against North Korean nuclear threats. The most eye-catching move, however, was an agreement to establish a “mini-Combined Forces Command” (CFC) even after the scheduled transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea in 2015 so both sides can maintain their current level of inter-operability.
Korea-U.S. military ties are at a crossroads with the transfer of wartime operational control to our Joint Chiefs of Staffs from the Combined Forces Command. When the job is completed in 2015, Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff takes over the authority to conduct war at times of a full-fledged crisis. In other words, the Korean military will exercise full authority in war for the first time in its modern history.
Critics have raised some concerns about the change. The existing CFC is a unique - and efficient - system which allows the two allies’ forces to conduct war under a unified command. But when the CFC is dissolved and our forces and their U.S. counterparts in Korea maneuver under separate command chains, can they prove as efficient as before? Based on such apprehensions, a few top retired generals of South Korea and the U.S. have vehemently opposed the idea of dismantling the CFC.
However, now that the two allies have reached a consensus on the transferring of the operational control to maximize our self-defense capability, both sides should do their best to reinforce our military’s ability to protect us even after the transfer of control. With more than half the job already done so far, it would be difficult to reverse it anyway.
Creation of a “mini-CFC” can be understood as an effort to find a realistic answer for those who worry about the dissolution of the CFC. It’s better for both sides to figure out the best possible solutions to clear some lingering suspicions about the motive of the establishment of a mini-CFC. At the same time, the government must beef up efforts to maximize the efficiency of our forces to prepare for the transfer. A government-proposed military reform bill is still pending at the National Assembly. Lawmakers must pass it as soon as possible.