As South Korea is gearing up to retrieve its wartime operational control from the US, concerns have been raised here that Washington would try to keep its authority over the military activities in the region by strengthening the US-led UNC.
|US Gen. Robert Abrams (Yonhap)|
“There is no secret plan to somehow have the UNC become an operational headquarters. That is what some people would classify as fake news,” Abrams said, in an international symposium on development of ground forces held in Seoul.
The US general also heads US Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command of the US and South Korea. The two allies have agreed that after the OPCON transfer, a four-star Korean general will become the chief of the CFC, and a US commander will serve as the deputy commander.
Abrams also clarified that the ongoing “revitalization” campaign, which the UNC started in 2014, is not related to Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, a policy that is largely seen to keep China in check.
“(The revitalization) is fundamentally about making a very modest increase in the UNC headquarters so that it can actually perform its duties in crisis,” Abrams said.
In clarifying about the revitalization plan, the US commander reiterated the two roles of the UNC: first, to enforce the armistice agreement and second, standing as a “coordinating headquarters” for contributing and integrating the troops of the sending states to the combined forces of South Korea and the US, for operations on the Korean Peninsula.
Under the revitalization scheme, the UNC has been increasing its staff and appointing more senior officials for full time service for the command.
Regarding “revitalization,” Gen. Abrams said he prefers to say it as an idea to “bring up the standards,” of the command, as he sees the current 21 staff members on full time duty are not enough to perform the duties properly, in times of crisis.
During the symposium, Abrams also addressed the floating worries here that the alliance between Seoul and Washington is weakening.
“We often say that the ROK-US alliance is iron-clad. And I’m here to tell it is much more than that. It is earthquake-proof, it is unshakable,” he said. ROK refers to the official name of South Korea, Republic of Korea.
“We remind people that the ROK-US Combined Forces Command is the heart of the alliance, and the heart is stronger than it has ever been before.”
The 5th Future Ground Forces Development International Symposium was held in Seoul, under the theme, “Army’s Role and Future Direction in Multidimensional Battlefield.”
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)