Sharp Emphasizes Need for U.S.-South Korea Alliance

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2011 — While the U.S.-South Kore­an troop alliance works to secure and sta­bi­lize North­east Asia, it still faces threats from North Korea, the U.S. Forces Korea com­man­der said today.
The Unit­ed States main­tains forces on the Kore­an penin­su­la to deter North Kore­an provo­ca­tions and aggres­sions, and if deter­rence fails, to fight and win, Army Gen. Wal­ter “Skip” Sharp told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

As evi­dence of North Korea’s recent bru­tal­i­ty, Sharp point­ed to the North’s unpro­voked attacks that sank the South Kore­an ship Cheonon and the shelling of Yeon­pyeong Island. The 2010 attacks killed 50 South Kore­ans.

“The alliance stands ready to address a full spec­trum of con­flict that could emerge on the Kore­an penin­su­la,” Sharp said. “Main­tain­ing this pre­pared­ness is accom­plished through… a con­tin­u­al refine­ment of our bilat­er­al plans to deter and defeat aggres­sion.”

Those plans, he said, can be con­tin­ued through annu­al joint, com­bined and inter­a­gency exer­cis­es to main­tain its “fight tonight” readi­ness.

Suc­cess­ful exe­cu­tion of these bilat­er­al plans requires a well-trained force, and three annu­al joint, com­bined and inter­a­gency exer­cis­es.

Sharp called the exer­cis­es “key enablers for main­tain­ing the fight-tonight readi­ness, while also prepar­ing for the future tran­si­tion of wartime oper­a­tional con­trol” to South Korea.

Anoth­er pri­or­i­ty, Sharp said, is to strength­en the U.S.-South Korea mil­i­tary alliance, in sup­port of the June 2009 joint pres­i­den­tial vision state­ment between the two coun­tries.

“A strong alliance bet­ter deters North Kore­an provoca­tive acts and pro­motes a peace­ful, secure and pros­per­ous future for the Kore­an penin­su­la, the Asia-Pacif­ic region and the world as a whole,” Sharp said.

Last year, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma agreed with South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak to adjust the tim­ing of the tran­si­tion of wartime oper­a­tional con­trol to South Korea from April 2012 to Decem­ber 2015, Sharp not­ed.

Oba­ma also agreed to devel­op a plan “to bet­ter syn­chro­nize all the ongo­ing trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tives of which [oper­a­tional con­trol] tran­si­tion is just one of the ele­ments,” he said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and South Kore­an Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-Young signed Strate­gic Alliance 2015 at a con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing in Octo­ber, Sharp not­ed. The plan syn­chro­nizes U.S. and South Kore­an efforts to build adap­tive and flex­i­ble capa­bil­i­ties to deter aggres­sion, he said.

Repo­si­tion­ing U.S. forces to Camp Humphries at Osan Air Base south of Seoul improves force readi­ness, Sharp said, and allows for the con­sol­i­da­tion of forces onto two endur­ing hubs.

Nor­mal­iz­ing tours in Korea, Sharp said, will improve readi­ness, com­bat capa­bil­i­ty, and low­er tur­bu­lence in units and reduce the stress placed on troops and fam­i­lies.

Gates approved the nor­mal­iza­tion plan in Decem­ber 2008, paving the way for longer, accom­pa­nied tours for the 28,500 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers sta­tioned through­out South Korea. For many years, the tour of duty in Korea was one year, and unac­com­pa­nied by fam­i­ly mem­bers.

Sharp told the com­mit­tee his command’s sup­port of the Strate­gic Imi­ta­tive 2015, the U.S. troops’ relo­ca­tion and oth­er ini­tia­tives, demon­strate a long U.S. com­mit­ment to secur­ing South Korea and the region.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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