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The PJ Tatler

by
Dan Miller

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March 31, 2011 - 7:30 pm

This story from the South Korean Chosun Ilbo reports that

Seoul and Washington have agreed that the chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff will command support troops from the U.S. in case of a provocation from North Korea, a government source said Thursday.

“The South Korean and U.S. militaries have recently agreed in principle that the chairman of the Korean JCS will command U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force personnel and equipment that support the South Korean military in case of various provocations from the North,” the source said. The two countries are still hammering out the details.

So far the South Korean military has responded [to]  North Korean provocations without U.S. military support [except during the police action half a century ago]. The South Korean JCS chairman currently exercises peacetime operational control over the South Korean troops but not over the U.S. Forces Korea. (emphasis added)

This seems peculiar, since the United States neither frequently nor commonly place its military forces under foreign command, at least to the extent that the article suggests. When a similar command shift happens on any large scale, it is usually under United Nations command with a U.S. general officer in control. The  article notes that the present shift  “is an unprecedented measure since the U.S. military is characteristically reluctant to place troops under the command of other countries.”

The commanding general,  U.S. Forces Korea,  also commands the United Nations Combined Forces Command there  and a ROK four star general is the deputy commander; this may (or alternatively may not)  be a partial explanation. Might it parallel the turn over of NATO operations in Libya to a Canadian general — even though in Korea there are “boots on the ground” and in Libya there are said to be none?  Of course, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander is U.S. Admiral James Stavridis.

Lots of  odd things seem to be happening, some of them at least apparently cosmetic.

Probably not all April Fools’ jokes, even though it’s already April 1st in Korea; but at this point who knows? President Obama?  Hu?

Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.

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