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