Candid Advice from a Veteran of the Alliance

      September 11, 2006 22:40

      Yu Byung-hyun, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, as the representative of the Korean forces, inaugurated Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command in 1978, told the Chosun Ilbo, "It was very significant for us that we established the CFC on an equal footing with the world power America 30 years after the nation's liberation. The plan to dismantle the CFC clearly runs counter to our national interest, and our sole exercise of wartime operational control of our troops would benefit only North Korea."

      Yu is a veteran who fought as liaison officer during the Korean War and witnessed soldiers scoop Yalu River water into a bottle to send it to then president Syngman Rhee when the U.S.-UN forces rapidly marched up the river before retreating again due to Chinese intervention. Yu is a living witness to the history of the Seoul-Washington alliance, serving as the first CFC deputy commander and then ambassador to the U.S. "I'm grieved," he said, to see the government push ahead with the takeover of sole operational control of our troops and dismantle the CFC in the name of "independence."

      "The core of the CFC is OPLAN 5027, repulsing the enemy in the event the deterrent fails. Under a wartime reinforcement program, 700,000 U.S. troops come to Korea and considerable quantities of wartime reserve logistics are in store," Yu went on. "If the CFC is dismantled, however, we will be unable to get all this support. A new operational plan has to be established, which will fall far behind the existing allied defense system."

      On the government's assurance that the U.S. promised to keep sending reinforcements even when we have sole control of our forces, Yu said, "No war has ever been executed as planned. Even if U.S. reinforcements were sent as promised, what good would they do if no logistics support is provided? In the current CFC, the chief logistics officer, who is a Korean major general, can ask his American deputy and other staff, 'Why no support?' But if the CFC is dismantled, no one can demand accountability." As Yu points out, an alliance that includes the CFC differs greatly from one without it, and U.S. support cannot be the same. It is impossible to understand, he said, why the administration insists on dissolving the CFC, which guarantees massive support at uncountable cost, without sufficient preparation now.

      Han Sung-joo, an emeritus professor at Korea University and an erstwhile foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., says, "Because the U.S. regards Japan as an ally prepared to fill any vacuum to be created as a result of adjustments in the Korea-U.S. alliance, Korea's strategic value has seriously diminished. The U.S. is satisfied with being able to pull its feet out of the quagmire that is South Korea." The Pentagon is all for an earlier takeover of operational control, in the face of cautious voices from the White House and State Department, because it is pleased that it can then deploy the U.S. Forces Korea at will, be spared trouble from anti-American forces in Korea, sell weaponry to Korea and boost its negotiating power with Seoul on military matters. To claim that the U.S. will provide us with the same level of support after the CFC has been dissolved is to deceive the people. Why else would Derek Mitchell, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have commented that President Roh Moo-hyun and the South Korean government have made U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "a great gift"?

      "Since President Roh has caused the problem, he must reconsider it. That's the only way out of the predicament," Yu said. It is candid advice from a key player in the inauguration of the CFC before the president meets his U.S. counterpart in a few days.

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