S.Korea, U.S. to Launch Combined Army Unit Next Year

South Korea and the U.S. have agreed to launch a combined army unit next year to boost their defense capability.

The combined unit will consist only of a rump staff but if war breaks out it could mobilize 10,000 troops from the 2nd U.S. Infantry Division and 2,000 from a South Korean brigade.

The unit will move with U.S. Forces Korea headquarters to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province in 2016.

Meanwhile, the two countries also agreed to keep the Combined Forces Command in Seoul, but they have not yet decided whether it will stay at the present USFK headquarters in Seoul or at other facilities.

The combined unit will be led by the commander of the 2nd U.S. Division, with a South Korean brigadier general as his deputy. The 30-strong rump staff will consist of South Korean and U.S. officers.

Its main duties would be repelling North Korean forces in the event of all-out conflict and destroying the North's weapons of mass destruction.

During the joint "Key Resolve" exercises, the USFK has regularly brought in a WMD demolition unit from the U.S. mainland.

The new unit will be headquartered in Uijeongbu, where the 2nd U.S. Division is stationed, prior to the relocation.

It "will contribute to a combined defense posture as joint exercises are carried out in peacetime and the combined unit comes into play in a war," a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The two countries are also in talks on whether to keep an artillery brigade of the 2nd U.S. Division north of the Han River.

"The U.S. military wants to keep the artillery brigade in Dongducheon, and the South Korean military also thinks that's a good idea because it would strengthen its ability to respond to North Korean long-range artillery," a military source said. "But the plan has hit a snag because the local government and some citizens are against it."

A similar cloud hangs over the Combined Forces Command. The U.S. wants to keep it at the Yongsan garrison, but Seoul has already made extensive redevelopment plans for the site, which is to become a public park.

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 05, 2014 10:46 KST