Sharp: Korea Plan Synchronizes Capabilities

SEOUL, South Korea, Sept. 17, 2010 — Though all sys­tems were “go” toward trans­fer­ring wartime oper­a­tional con­trol of forces here to South Korea in 2012, delay­ing that tran­si­tion at the South Kore­an government’s request will enable a broad range of ini­tia­tives to unfold in a more syn­chro­nized way, the top U.S. com­man­der said.

These ini­tia­tives, embod­ied in the new Strate­gic Alliance 2015 agree­ment announced last week, pro­vide “a much more com­pre­hen­sive, com­plete pack­age” to shape the U.S.-South Kore­an alliance for the future, Army Gen. Wal­ter L. “Skip” Sharp, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Korea, Com­bined Forces Com­mand and Unit­ed Nations Com­mand, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

The new plan cov­ers trans­fer­ring wartime “opcon” –- oper­a­tional con­trol — to South Korea, devel­op­ing new war plans, intro­duc­ing broad­er and more real­is­tic exer­cis­es, review­ing both coun­tries’ mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­tures and tim­ing the move­ment of U.S. forces south of Seoul and ensur­ing South Kore­an forces are ready, he explained.

The plan, Sharp said, also will help to iden­ti­fy mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties South Kore­an forces will need in 2015, and to ensure that South Kore­an acqui­si­tion, train­ing and orga­ni­za­tion­al efforts are geared toward achiev­ing them.

In addi­tion, he said, the plan will estab­lish “bridg­ing capa­bil­i­ties” the U.S. mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to pro­vide after ini­tial opcon trans­fer, and what both coun­tries will con­tribute for the long term.

“In the past, ‘opcon’ trans­fer was com­plete­ly focused on just Repub­lic of Korea tak­ing over on 17 April 2012,” Sharp said. “Now, we are try­ing to take and syn­chro­nize all of these things in order to be able to make it that by 2015.””

Sharp said he had been con­fi­dent that every­thing was on track to trans­fer wartime oper­a­tional con­trol to South Korea as planned on April 17, 2012. He praised the South Kore­an military’s per­for­mance after the annu­al Key Resolve exer­cise in March, out­lin­ing to Con­gress the final steps need­ed to pre­pare for opcon trans­fer: com­ple­tion of a new bilat­er­al war plan and refine­ments to the com­mand-and-con­trol sys­tem and oth­er process­es.

That was before defin­i­tive proof that North Korea was respon­si­ble for sink­ing the South Kore­an naval ship Cheo­nan on March 26, killing 46 sailors.

As ten­sions mount­ed on the Kore­an penin­su­la, South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak asked Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in ear­ly June to delay the tran­si­tion.

“Pres­i­dent Oba­ma rein­forced that mil­i­tar­i­ly we are ready to do it in 2012, but on behalf of the alliance, he agreed that we would delay it to late 2015,” Sharp said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, who sub­se­quent­ly met with South Kore­an Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young, decid­ed to take advan­tage of the addi­tion­al time to move for­ward on a broad scope of oth­er ini­tia­tives, all aimed at strength­en­ing the alliance, Sharp said.

Gates, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and their South Kore­an coun­ter­parts agreed to the over­ar­ch­ing con­cepts in the Strate­gic Alliance 2015 plan dur­ing their “2 plus 2” talks here in July, Sharp said.

The plan, announced last week, lays out the frame­work for these efforts, he said.

“It’s real­ly a syn­chro­niza­tion of many of the ini­tia­tives that we were going to work on in series, but now we can work on them in par­al­lel and make them syn­chro­nized with the Repub­lic of Korea gain­ing enough capa­bil­i­ty to tru­ly be in con­trol of the warfight by 2015,” the gen­er­al said.

The plan includes a new mis­sion analy­sis of war plans, Sharp said, to ensure they’re reflec­tive of emerg­ing con­di­tions on the Kore­an penin­su­la.

“We are re-look­ing the full range of op plans and mak­ing sure they are very real­is­tic for what we see North Korea doing over the next five years or so,” Sharp said. “We are look­ing at what North Korea has done recent­ly, in the past, and what they are say­ing they are going to do.”

The plan also will reflect grow­ing capa­bil­i­ties with­in the U.S.-South Kore­an alliance dur­ing the next five years, he said.

Strate­gic Alliance 2015 also ush­ers in more real­is­tic exer­cise sce­nar­ios. In addi­tion to focus­ing on an all-out attack by North Korea, they’ll incor­po­rate sce­nar­ios of involv­ing low­er-lev­el provo­ca­tions, and the cri­sis man­age­ment process­es need­ed to deal with them, Sharp said.

And build­ing on lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, the exer­cis­es will rein­force non­com­bat as well as com­bat skills, he added.

“We are incor­po­rat­ing as part of the exer­cis­es the full range of what sol­diers and all ser­vice­mem­bers will have to be able to do in the future, from the full kinet­ic to sta­bi­liza­tion and recon­struc­tion,” Sharp said.

Mean­while, both the South Kore­an and U.S. mil­i­taries are review­ing their orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­tures to ensure they’re ful­ly pre­pared to reverse the cur­rent sup­port­ing-sup­port­ed con­struct in 2015. At the same time, U.S. Forces Korea is work­ing to ensure a smooth move­ment of its troops south of the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul on a timetable that sup­ports oth­er ini­tia­tives under way.

“We are tak­ing a look to deter­mine the syn­chro­niza­tion of our move from [U.S. Army Gar­ri­son] Yongsan and the 2nd Infantry Divi­sion down to Camp Humphreys,” Sharp said. “We want to syn­chro­nize the move for when it makes sense, for when we are going through the orga­ni­za­tion­al changes to be pre­pared after 2015, when [the South Kore­an joint chiefs of staff become] the leader in the warfight.”

Sharp acknowl­edged that the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to pro­vide “bridg­ing capa­bil­i­ties” for a lim­it­ed peri­od after ini­tial opcon trans­fer, but said the Strate­gic Alliance 2015 agree­ment also will look longer-term.

“What capa­bil­i­ties do we main­tain here for a peri­od of time past opcon trans­fer?” he said. “And then, what do both coun­tries look at for the endur­ing capa­bil­i­ties we will always bring to the alliance as long as there is a North Kore­an threat?”

The next step in the process will take place at the U.S.-Korea Secu­ri­ty Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing sched­uled Oct. 7 and 8. Dur­ing that ses­sion, par­tic­i­pants will work through “a much more detailed plan for each of the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents,” lay­ing out tasks and set­ting mile­stones to get the var­i­ous ini­tia­tives syn­chro­nized and on sched­ule for 2015, Sharp said.

Tes­ti­fy­ing ear­li­er this week before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, the gen­er­al expressed deep con­fi­dence in the Strate­gic Alliance 2015 plan.

“Strate­gic Alliance 2015 will enable the Repub­lic of Korea and U.S. forces to suc­cess­ful­ly con­front future secu­ri­ty chal­lenges and set the con­di­tions for last­ing peace in the Kore­an penin­su­la and the region,” Sharp told the com­mit­tee. “The Repub­lic of Korea and the Unit­ed States are more strong­ly unit­ed than ever before to deter North Kore­an provo­ca­tions and aggres­sion, and to defeat them if nec­es­sary.”

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

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