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 North Korean provocations without U.S. military support. The South Korean JCS chairman currently exercises peacetime operational control over the South Korean troops but not over the U.S. Forces Korea.
But a military source said since the North's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November last year, the South Korean JCS has persistently called for the option to mobilize USFK support, and the U.S. military agreed. It is an unprecedented measure since the U.S. military is characteristically reluctant to place troops under the command of other countries.
Which U.S. troops and how many will be under the South Korean JCS chairman's command has yet to be decided. Under consideration are reconnaissance aircraft such as U-2s and E-8 Joint-Stars, artillery from the Second U.S. Infantry Division like Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and M-109 self-propelled guns, Apache attack helicopters and medevac choppers, and some U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel. The aim is to supply capacity the South Korean military lacks.
Right after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, the chairmen of the two countries' JCSs met and agreed to formulate a joint response to local provocations by the North. They have since continued the consultations.