Support our mission

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Pacific military officials Monday downplayed — but would not flatly deny — a report claiming the Pentagon will disband separate military commands in South Korea and Japan and put them under one commander, simplifying a complicated command-and-control structure.

An operational corps headquarters led by an Army lieutenant general based at Camp Zama, Japan, would control the 2nd Infantry Division and the Army in South Korea under the new system, according to a Feb. 1 Honolulu Advertiser story.

Maj. Guillermo Canedo, Pacific Command media officer, wouldn’t comment directly on details of the story, which cited anonymous sources, but said the military has many restructuring ideas and continuing discussions are “confidential.”

“We are just looking at better ways of employing our forces and leveraging technology,” Canedo said. “There are no decisions that have been made.”

Some plans are near-term, he said, while others are longer-range. Consultations are under way with allies to reassure them of U.S. commitment to their security, he said.

“The global posture review is to strengthen our defense relationships with key allies and partners, improve flexibility, enable action regionally and globally, exploit advantages in rapid power projection and focus on overall capabilities instead of numbers,” Navy Capt. John Singley, Pacific Command lead spokesman, was quoted as saying in the Advertiser.

Public affairs officers at U.S. Forces Japan and U.S. Forces Korea declined to comment directly on the story, issuing statements that echoed Pacific Command.

The South Korean Defense Ministry had no comment, saying it had not seen the report.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Press Division confirmed that U.S. and Japanese officials have discussed the issue.

“There have been discussions in regards to revisions of military structure including Okinawa,” said an official from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, the official said, “We are not in the position to discuss the details of the U.S. military’s situations and operations.”

The four commands named in the story are the Combined Forces Command, a warfighting unit composed of South Korean and U.S. officers; 8th Army; U.S. Forces Korea, which encompasses the four U.S. services; and the U.N. Command, the American-led affiliation of nations that oversees the armistice agreement with North Korea.

The Advertiser story quoted Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, as saying in December that the disbanding of the U.N. Command “will undoubtedly be part of the whole discussion that we have regarding the realignment of our posture in Korea.”

The U.N. Command is a vestige of the group of 17 nations that contributed combat troops during the 1950-53 war.

The U.N. Command chief — Gen. Leon J. LaPorte — would have operational control over South Korean forces in the event of war. High-ranking South Korean officers have positions beside U.S. officers in the Combined Forces Command.

But South Koreans still retain perceptions of American domination and the changes might temper anti-Americanism, according to the newspaper. It also would allow for quicker response times and remove layers of cumbersome military bureaucracy, the newspaper reported.

The report did not mention altering troop numbers in South Korea; U.S. officials have maintained that troop reductions are not planned.

U.S. and South Korean officials agreed last year to drastic revisions of bases in the country. The 2nd Infantry Division is to consolidate into two hubs at Camps Red Cloud and Casey before eventually moving south of the Han River, officials agreed.

Forces at Yongsan Garrison are to leave Seoul by 2007, moving to Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek and nearby Osan Air Base. The two governments, which met last month in Hawaii, have said they’re still hammering out financing.

While many South Korean civic groups hailed the proposed movement as long overdue, others criticized the signal it would send to North Korea, which announced an active nuclear program in October 2002. U.S. troops, some South Koreans say, keep the communist country in check.

Choe Song-won and Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.


Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up