U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. James Thurman informally proposed keeping the Combined Forces Command under a Korean four-star general instead of the USFK chief once full operational control of Korean troops is handed over to Seoul in December 2015.
The U.S. military has stuck to the principle that an American officer should be the supreme commander of combined forces, although lower-echelon units have sometimes been under the command of foreign officers. One member of a government-funded think tank said, "When the CFC was established in 1978, the foreign ministers of Korea and the U.S. exchanged letters to the effect that the USFK chief would take command."
Pundits speculate that the U.S. is working out some other way to keep the tradition alive even if the CFC is nominally under Korean command.
Former defense minister Kim Jang-soo said, "If a Korean four-star general takes command of the CFC under the current system, a U.S. three-star general would serve as deputy commander, a position now held by a Korean four-star general." He hinted that the U.S. will have different American officers taking command of the USFK and the UN Command concurrently.
Another member of the think tank said, "There's a likelihood that the U.S. has in mind a new permanent Korea-U.S. military council, which would give strategic guidelines and orders to the CFC, which would then exercise full operational control on the Korean Peninsula under a Korean general."
Others speculate that Gen. Thurman does not think the CFC will last very long.