A U.S. think tank has called for more U.S. Marines to be sent to South Korea to improve the defense and response capabilities of forces here. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies made the recommendation in a strategy report to Congress on Sunday.
The CSIS also called for reinforcement of the U.S. Pacific Command and redeployment of U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific region under the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia" strategy.
The South Korean Marines displayed a lack of capabilities to cope with an emergency in the West Sea when the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan in March 2010 and shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November the same year, the report says.
The report suggests replacing existing U.S. ground forces here with mechanized infantry units, artillery units and aviation brigades that can be deployed warfare-ready on a rotating basis, or reinforcing the U.S. forces here with National Guard and Reserve troops. It also calls for improving the USFK's weapons and equipment and deploying intercept missiles.
It proposes delaying the transfer of full operational control of the South Korean forces to Seoul slated for December 2015, in case the threat from the North and China mounts; and improving South Korea's defense capabilities by stationing the U.S. Navy's newest littoral combat ships in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang Province.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on Armed Services sent along with the CSIS report, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hinted at the possibility that the recommendations will be implemented, saying his department is "in agreement on most issues."
These, however, do not include delaying the handover of troop control and relocation of U.S. Marines from Japan to Guam, both matters which he described as an "area of concern."