USA/South Korea — New Plan Will Lead to Stronger Alliance, Gates Says

CAMP CASEY, South Korea, July 20, 2010 — With wartime oper­a­tional con­trol for forces on the Kore­an penin­su­la now sched­uled to trans­fer to the South Kore­an mil­i­tary in Decem­ber 2015, offi­cials of both coun­tries have time to forge a stronger, more effec­tive alliance, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates told sol­diers here today.

Gates — who will par­tic­i­pate along with Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton in meet­ings with their South Kore­an coun­ter­parts in the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul this week — met with about 300 sol­diers of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Heavy Brigade Com­bat team at this post 20 miles from Korea’s demil­i­ta­rized zone.

The trans­fer orig­i­nal­ly was sched­uled for April 2012, Gates told the sol­diers, but the South Kore­an gov­ern­ment asked for more time. The effort – now dubbed “Strate­gic Alliance 2015” – will make the rela­tion­ship more robust in terms of exer­cis­es and com­mand and con­trol capa­bil­i­ties, he said.

And though he con­tin­ues to believe the South Kore­an mil­i­tary is pro­fes­sion­al and capa­ble of lead­ing the com­bined defense effort, the sec­re­tary added, “I think this addi­tion­al time will allow us to make the even­tu­al trans­fer more wide-rang­ing and more syn­chro­nized, and ulti­mate­ly, bet­ter for the alliance.”

Gates not­ed that the Unit­ed States and South Korea are observ­ing the 60th anniver­sary of their rela­tion­ship.

“The incred­i­ble pros­per­i­ty, free­dom and vital­i­ty you see out­side the gates of this camp and through­out [South Korea} are the result of a steep price paid in blood and trea­sure by both the Unit­ed States and Korea and our oth­er allies,” Gates told the sol­diers. “And although you’re far from home and not as much in the head­lines as what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, I just want you to know we do appre­ci­ate your sac­ri­fice here, but [I also want to] tell you your vig­i­lance is excep­tion­al­ly impor­tant in one of the most volatile parts of the world.”

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