Go to contents

Korea Commands Alone By 2012

Posted February. 26, 2007 07:23,   


Defense ministers of South Korea and the United States agreed Friday that by April 17, 2012 to transfer wartime operational control to South Korea, which means it will be solely responsible for commanding its military in wartime. They also decided to disband the Combined Forces Command (CFC). This is the result of the Roh administration’s heady attempt to take over wartime operational control, which is a wrong decision. With only one year in office remaining, the administration is saddling the South Koreans with a heavy burden. It is so typical of the Roh administration to set the date of the transfer on April 17. It seemed that it is not a coincidence that the date is July 14 when read backwards, the date when South Korea transferred control of its forces to a U.S.-led United Nations command in 1950.

The Roh administration’s rash decision on the transfer leaves a task for the next government that is sure to be a priority of the succeeding government. It also leaves behind a security vacuum and a weakened South Korea-U.S. military alliance. There is a doubt whether South Korea will be ready to take over control in five years, though the government insists that there will be no problems since South Korea and the U.S. are planning to form new headquarters through which the two countries will cooperate during both wartime and peacetime.

However, the new system is a far cry from the CFC in which the South Korean armed forces and the U.S. troops in Korea are operating as two families under one roof. But, in the new system, the two countries will establish their own force commands in Korea, which will result in a dual structure where South Korea will control its forces and the U.S. will take a control of its forces stationed in Korea. There is no doubt this system will prove inefficient.

Some argue that South Korea in part needs to have the sole control of its armed forces during wartime to absorb North Korea in case the two Koreas reunite. However, it’s like counting their eggs before they hatch. South Korea needs to defeat the North even with help from the U.S. military when confronting the North in an all-out war as long as the North doesn’t collapse by itself. A weakened military alliance between South Korea and the U.S. will not achieve that.

The agreement reached in Washington Friday made people cast doubt on whether the U.S. will make good on its promise to dispatch 690,000 additional troops, about 160 warships including five carrier battle groups, and around 2,000 aircraft including fighter jets in case of a military emergency. 12,500 out of 28,000 U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea are set to leave Korea by next year. Concern about the security vacuum caused by the reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Korea has prompted retired generals and military leaders to consistently oppose the early transfer of wartime control of Korean forces and to have an emergency meeting today.

The defense budget of South Korea is expected to reach 139 trillion won by 2010 with an annual increase of 9.9 percent. That amounts to 16.7 percent of the government’s total revenues. By 2020, the government is planning to spend 621 trillion won on defense. Part of the money, 272 trillion won, will be spent on purchasing airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). It is too much for South Korea to have to pay for an independent military.