CP Tango bunker may become joint facility

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CP Tango bunker may become joint facility

Korea and the United States have tentatively agreed to jointly use the Command Post Theater Air Naval Ground Operations, or CP Tango bunker in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, according to defense sources.

Washington, in turn, is expected to ask Seoul to shoulder tens of billions of won in costs for the operation and maintenance of the bunker, which serves as the Korean theater’s main war headquarters.

A military source said Wednesday, “It has been tentatively agreed to transfer the CP Tango into a joint facility. More concrete discussions have yet to happen, but the logical sequence is for the two countries to jointly share the costs of its operation and maintenance.”

The issue was addressed during talks on the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Since around 2014, the United States has proposed joint use of CP Tango after the transfer of wartime operational control, or Opcon, back to Korea, which is supposed to take place before President Moon Jae-in’s term ends in 2022, although the transfer has faced numerous delays in the past.

The money currently being spent on the bunker might find its way into the budget for Donald Trump’s Mexico wall.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday authorized $1 billion to build part of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border pushed by Trump.

The Pentagon on March 18 sent the U.S. Congress a list of $12.8 billion in construction projects that could reallocated to the building of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Military observers point out that the budget for CP Tango was likely on that list.

Unlike other U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) facilities, CP Tango has been a highly classified U.S. facility and Washington has covered its operation and maintenance costs.

The military source said, “The annual maintenance expenses, including the electricity and water fees, are just hundreds of millions of won, but the cost of upgrading the telecommunications system and various repairs and renovations are expected to cost up to tens of billions of won. We are likely to have to shoulder a considerable portion of these costs.”

The CP Tango bunker complex has a total area of 33,000 square meters (8.15 acres) and is built on a granite mountain. Maintenance costs are high due to underground water.

Since 2013, there has not been any major renovation or repair work. Amid the USFK’s move to its new Pyeongtaek headquarters in Gyeonggi, it tried to sell CP Tango to Korea.

Lee Sung-chool, a former deputy commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, said, “The United States, in the next defense cost-sharing negotiations, will surely raise Korea’s share by citing the cost of operating and maintaining CP Tango as a reason.”

The South Korean military has within its Capital Defense Command (CDC) its own B-1 bunker, functions of which overlap with CP Tango.

Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the USFK, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the CP Tango and Kunsan Air Base in Korea are necessary “principally for command and control and sustainability.”

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona addressed the reallocation of some $17.5 million for CP Tango and $53 million for a UAV hangar at the Kunsan Air Base to the border wall, especially taking into consideration deterrence of North Korean threats.

“They’re certainly important to U.S. Forces Korea,” said Abrams. “But it’s inappropriate for me to make some sort of judgment as we’ve got to take into account all of national security. I’m responsible for providing a credible, properly postured force on the Korean Peninsula, and we’d have to defer that to the acting secretary of defense.”

BY LEE KEUN-PYUNG, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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