USFK official says U.S.-S. Korean military alliance must adapt to times
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — As evidenced by the planned 2nd Infantry Division deployment to Iraq, the decades-long U.S.-South Korea military alliance must adapt to 21st-century circumstances, a top U.S. military officer said Tuesday.
And those changes should be measured by military capabilities, not merely the number of American boots on the ground.
Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, the U.S. Forces Korea chief of staff and 8th Army commander, made the comments during a meeting here with South Korea’s equivalent of the Pentagon press corps.
USFK made a transcript available to other media outlets after the meeting. Campbell’s briefing produced the first substantive comments about the deployment by a senior U.S. military official in South Korea, where news of the deployment caused a firestorm of media speculation about the future U.S. commitment and presence on the peninsula.
“Think about capabilities, and not about numbers,” Campbell said, according to the transcript. “Capabilities on the peninsula — ROK and U.S. — capabilities in the region, capabilities in the continental United States or elsewhere — that includes Afghanistan and Iraq and the Balkans, that can rapidly reinforce the Peninsula if conflict unfolds.
“Remember that the commitment remains the same. But the ways by which our two nations honor that commitment will be adapted to the changed circumstances of the 21st century.”
Campbell began the briefing by giving a short history of the U.S.-South Korea military alliance, from the Korean War through Vietnam up to today. But, he said, it’s the future that should be focused on — one being shaped by events going on now.
“The future of the alliance has to accommodate a changed peninsula security environment. It has to acknowledge the significantly improved capabilities of the ROK Armed Forces,” Campbell said. “And, it has to recognize and accommodate the fact that the U.S. global commitments have proliferated in recent years.”
A combined U.S.-South Korean force could even be called upon in other contingencies around the Pacific, he said.
“It’s not beyond the pale, not beyond the inconceivable, that conditions in the 21st century might warrant the deployment of a ROK-U.S. combined formation to perform some function or mission in the region. It could be humanitarian, it could be peacekeeping, but it suggests to you that the future of the 21st century will be characterized by a ROK-U.S. alliance that’s not confined specifically to the geographical environs of the peninsula but may, in fact, have a regional quality to it,” Campbell said
The 8th Army commander focused much of the briefing on the improved capabilities of both the U.S. and South Korean militaries. He touted the $11 billion the U.S. will spend in high-tech weapons upgrades over the next four years and said the military capabilities already in the region are “significantly greater” than even those of a decade ago.
Campbell referred to some of the specific upgrades, including the deployment of Apache Longbows, unmanned aerial vehicles, updated PAC-3 Patriot missile systems and upgrades to M1A1 battle tanks.
“These forces will be more agile, more responsive, more deployable, more survivable, more lethal, more tailor-able, and more sustainable. And yet, we’ll retain theater-specific formations that perform theater-specific functions,” he said.
But those technological capabilities would be less useful without training, Campbell said.
Asked whether the 2nd Brigade would return to South Korea after Iraq, Campbell said that decision had not yet been made.
What the 2nd Brigade “will do upon the conclusion of that deployment will grow out of consultations between our two governments,” he said, according to the transcript. “And those consultations occur at, really, two levels. They occur at the ministerial level, between the ROK Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense, and they occur at the presidential level.”
Whether or not the brigade returns, Campbell said, the South Korean people should not think the American commitment to the peninsula has changed.
“What is important for all of us to know and for all of us to remember is that the commitment to the alliance remains the same. And that commitment has two elements,” Campbell said.
“The first element is the common determination to defend against an external armed attack. The second element of that shared commitment is the desire to strengthen the collective defense in order to preserve peace and security on the peninsula and within the region. The ways by which our two nations honor that commitment will change. And they will change in coincidence with the changed circumstance of the 21st century. But the commitment of our two nations will remain firm, enduring, and unwavering.”