There is much more to it than it appears: The transformation of USFK

The debate on wartime operation command now happening in South Korea actually conceals more than it reveals. The fact that the debate is now taking place is itself a bit funny. Why? It means the sovereign state of the Republic of Korea has been so far lacking sovereign authority over its own army. It also means that there is still strong reluctance to have it back among some sections of the public, the so-called pro-US social forces. Who has that operation command? The US forces in Korea (USFK). Why? Because the US wanted it and South Korea believed it was better that way, until recently.

What is the change? The current Roh government plans to have it returned soon and the US agrees to it. If it happens, South Korea can fully command its army for the first time, in theory. Will the US forces leave South Korea after this, as some project? This is not likely and totally unrelated to the issue.

The right-wing, the opposition party and conservatives in South Korea are very serious in opposing South Korea to have this sovereign authority back. Why? Because they believe without the US direct command South Korean army is not able to fight back possible attacks from the north. According to some of them, Roh’s government is a pro-North Korea leftist government, committed to weaken or destroy the ROK-US alliance. What does the opposition want? The US should continue to control South Korean army and keep the alliance intact. However, contrary to the wishes of the so-called pro-US forces in South Korea, it is the US who is pushing for a drastic change in the alliance.

The real issue here is not really about sovereign right of military command, but the subtly and deeply changing role and strategy of the ROK-US military alliance with very strong regional implications.

Under the current arrangement, the return of the operation command does not affect very much the subordinate status of the South Korean forces to the US. South Korea sent the third largest troop to Iraq practically out of no reason. It is the only country in the world devoid of parliamentary talk of withdrawal so far. Every year, its army, navy and marines conduct massive exercise with the US forces. This year, the Roh government has agreed to the idea of ‘strategic flexibility’ for US forces operation in the region. If fully agreed, this arrangement will allow the US forces to get the necessary support from the South Korean forces when they engage in operation in the region, for example, in Taiwan strait. What does it mean? Not only the US bases and facilities so widely spread in South Korea will become perfect launch-pads, but the South Korean military will also be involved in this kind of ‘flexible’ operations.

In a nut-shell, the current move to return the operation command to South Korea is part and parcel of the overall change of the strategic role of the USFK. USFK is shifting its strategic role towards Northeast Asia and further, not necessarily geared towards defence against North Koreans, but surely geared towards rapid deployment of forces to anywhere they want. The keyword here, though so deceptive and twisted a jargon, is ‘strategic flexibility’. It forecasts more provocative role played by USFK and chain reaction of arms build-up in the region. Contrary to various conjectures of the right-wingers in South Korea, the ROK-military alliance is building-up in a way that demands more service from the Korean military and tax from citizens for the US strategic objectives in the region.

The photo is taken from added by's editor. It shows the rally organized by conservative on 2 of September, 2006 against the return of wartime operation command from U.S to Korea.

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18 Apr18:06

news from Hani Submitted by

By hoidick

news from Hani
Submitted by oiwan on Fri, 2006-09-08 14:26.
future military operation plan

Chinese translation translated  此文已譯成中文
Submitted by ahchoii on Fri, 2006-09-08 13:17.

post on to inmedia
Submitted by oiwan on Fri, 2006-09-08 13:40.
here it is; coolloud can use it as well :)

similar to japan
Submitted by oiwan on Wed, 2006-09-06 13:44.
the situation in okinawa, people are made to believe that they could not live without u.s military presence.