Saturday, November 7, 2009
8th US Army to Remain in Korea
By Jung Sung-ki, Staff Reporter
The Eighth U.S. Army (EUSA) will remain in South Korea even after Korean commanders take over wartime operational control (OPCON) of its forces from the U.S. military in 2012, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) announced Friday.
The United States will inaugurate a new theater command — Korea Command (KORCOM) — but the date of establishment has not been set, it said in a press release.
The confirmation came after it was reported that KORCOM will be set up next June to replace the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) in line with the 2012 OPCON transition.
"As part of OPCON transition, the U.S. military will establish a new headquarters currently called Korea Command for planning purposes," the USFK said. "The date for the establishment of KORCOM has not been set. KORCOM will be a sub-unified command and have the same relationship to Pacific Command (in Hawaii) that USFK has now."
It said EUSA's transformation, to include planned moves to the Pyeongtaek area, "confirms the United States' commitment to a strong ROK-U.S. alliance and the defense of the Korean people."
Whether or not to relocate the EUSA headquarters in Seoul to other regions, such as Hawaii where the Pacific Command is located, has been controversial because of the command's symbolic status on the Korean Peninsula.
Established in 1944 in Memphis, Tenn., EUSA became the spearhead for the United Nations Command (UNC) to halt aggression by North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, and ultimately assumed overall responsibility for conducting ground operations on the peninsula under the command of a four-star American general.
But the army command's roles and missions have been significantly reduced since the establishment of the CFC, which takes charge of wartime operations on the peninsula, in 1978.
Since then, a three-star general has taken charge of EUSA, while the CFC has been headed by a four-star general, who concurrently serves as chief of the UNC and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
Currently, EUSA's missions are limited to administrative or personnel affairs. The 150-strong command is in charge of providing forces to the CFC commander and undertaking combat support operations, such as reception, staging, onward movement and integration missions, in the event of an emergency.
Earlier this year, CFC Commander Gen. Walter Sharp reportedly said he had suggested to his superiors at the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Command that the EUSA stay in South Korea even after the 2012 transition at the request of South Korean military leaders, who fear such a move would trigger a sense of insecurity among Korean citizens.
After several years of negotiations, Seoul and Washington agreed in 2007 that Seoul would execute independent operational control of its armed forces during wartime beginning April 17, 2012. The U.S. military would primarily provide naval and air support.
The two sides agreed to disband the CFC and run separate theater commands. A South Korean-U.S. "military cooperation center," a body for combat operations, will be set up to help facilitate joint operations.
The center will comprise about 10 standing and non-standing organizations.
But South Korean conservative groups regard the command changes as a U.S. move to reduce its security commitment to South Korea.
They argue the smaller role of the USFK amid lingering threats posed by Pyongyang could tip the military balance on the peninsula.
Korea Herald (* Text informed by Kyle Kajihiro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
U.S. Army headquarters to stay
By Song Sang-ho