South Korea to Get War Control over U.S. Troops in 3 years

The times, they are changing,

The Pentagon plans to give South Korea wartime operational control over U.S. troops within three years and will keep U.S. troop levels at more than 20,000 over the next several years, defense officials said yesterday.

Ok, status quo.

Following the latest round of U.S.-South Korea talks July 13 and 14, the Pentagon and South Korean military and defense officials agreed to draw up the command transfer plan that will shift combat authority from the U.S.-led combined forces command to a new structure led by South Korean military commanders and supported by U.S. forces. The goal is to complete the transfer of authority by 2009, but some changes could take five years.

My advice to South Korea: Look at Iceland this year. Total withdrawal = 5% of the economy.

As for troop levels, officials said there are no plans for major U.S. troop cuts beyond plans to have 25,000 troops by 2008. The Pentagon plans to keep 20,000 to 25,000 troops in the country for the foreseeable future, the official said, noting that the fighting power of both U.S. and South Korean forces will remain constant or increase as new weapons are deployed.

FILED UNDER: National Security,
Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

Comments

  1. Sammy says:

    My advice to South Korea: Look at Iceland this year. Total withdrawal = 5% of the economy.

    What the hell are you talking about? The Icelandic situation bears no comparison to South Korea.

    First of all, in Iceland, the government HAS OPPOSED the withdrawl of US forces. In South Korea there is a political movement towards more autonomy.

    Secondly, Iceland doesn’t have a military and is claiming that the US is basically cutting and running while reneging on both its NATO committments as well as on the bilateral treaty of 1951.

  2. Kenny says:

    “My advice to South Korea: Look at Iceland this year. Total withdrawal = 5% of the economy.”

    unlikely. The total cost of the IDF was around 1.5% of the Icelandic GDP in 2003. Add in the high growth rates in the iceland gdp since then 6.2% in 2004 , 5.5% last year and a forecast of 4.5% this year and I find it hard to believe that the US military presence adds up to 5% of gdp even assuming all monies for the IDF are spent in Iceland and allowing for a multiplier effect.

  3. The current S. Korea administration is tilted to the left. I suspect that over time this will change.

    In any case, I think Korea is a good potential for where we could draw down forces overseas. South Korea has a military large enough to defend against Korea. It might be able to hold its own against Russia, but that speaks more to the state of the Russian military than anything else. Korea doesn’t have enough to defend against China, but then that is a pretty tall order. Taiwan and Japan aren’t currently threats (or foreseeable threats despite history).

    In a like manner, the US forces in S. Korea aren’t enough to stop NK without SK participation. They certainly aren’t enough to stop China. At best, they are a trip wire.

    Last I heard, SK was considered a hard ship post for the US, with all that means in terms of separation from family. I think the US would be better served by opening a base in Taiwan than keeping the bases in SK (and yes, I suspect that Taiwan would happily pay for the cost of opening the new base, closing the SK bases and transferring the troops).

  4. Richard Gardner says:

    The Icelandic situation is complicated, just like the Korean situation. The significant difference is that S. Korea has an obvious threat, while the last threat to Iceland (other than possible aircraft hijackings over the Atlantic) was Russian Bear F aircraft circling the island in June 1999. The President of Iceland (OK, a figurehead) opposed the American presence when a Member of Parliament. The Independence Party supported the American presence because of their ties to the contractors on the Keflavík base (ruling party for most of the past 50 years, as did the rural Progressive’s due to their alliance with the Independence Party). The 2 left of Icelandic center parties were against the base (mostly the Social Democratic Party, or today’s (Left) Alliance).

    The draw down in Iceland began in the late 90s, and my 5% came from around 2000 (was even higher in 1990). The draw down accelerated in 2002, so by the 2003 figures in the above comment are likely correct. Meanwhile, the Icelandic economy expanded massively starting in 1995 or so.

    However, when it comes to South Korea, the American contribution to domestic GDP is much less than Iceland. Iceland only has ~300K population, so a little bit on money goes a long way. However, when it comes to political contributions, S. Korea is like Iceland in that the driving function has traditionally been the base contractors.

  5. DC Loser says:

    The current S. Korea administration is tilted to the left. I suspect that over time this will change.

    This may just be wishful thinking. SK political orientation has a lot to do with local issues and also things dating back to the dictatorship of the 70s and 80s. And don’t forget the youth’s resentment of continuing US presence and perceived US interference with “sunshine policy.”

    Korea doesn’t have enough to defend against China, but then that is a pretty tall order. Taiwan and Japan aren’t currently threats (or foreseeable threats despite history).

    One of the bright spots of SK foreign policy is its increasingly warm relations with the PRC, especially its trade. The PRC sees SK as a more bigger “ally,” economically and increasingly politically (in regional issues) than the DPRK. Don’t underestimate Korean (North and South) resentment of Japan, and there are still simmering territorial disputes with Japan over some rocks in the Sea of Japan.

    Last I heard, SK was considered a hard ship post for the US, with all that means in terms of separation from family. I think the US would be better served by opening a base in Taiwan than keeping the bases in SK (and yes, I suspect that Taiwan would happily pay for the cost of opening the new base, closing the SK bases and transferring the troops).

    Your info is about 25 years out of date. SK is a major economic power and GIs mostly look forward to a Korea PCS. Great shopping and good facilities. Sure beats 2 years in Iraq. As for the fantasy about Taiwan, I’m still laughing. If you want that to happen you’d first have to have a major re-alignment of US foreign policy, namely, de-recognize the PRC and shift diplomatic relations back to the ROC (Taiwan). We can’t even get Taiwan to buy some measly Patriots and old destroyers, what makes you think they’d pony up bucks to have GIs run around there?