Concerns Mount that Rodriguez Range Will Be the Next US-ROK “Hot Potato” Issue

I do find it interesting that no one ever seems to protest ROK military training areas:

Rodriguez Range

The contentious Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon, Gyeonggi, a tactical training area for the American army near the border with North Korea, was brought up in a recent high-level military conference between Seoul and Washington as nearby residents have complained of noise and safety concerns.

U.S. military officers worry that the complex, a 3,390-acre training zone managed by the 8th U.S. Army, could become the next “hot potato” after the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, a senior South Korean government official told JoongAng Ilbo Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

The field, which is the U.S. military’s largest shooting complex in Asia, was among the main agenda items discussed at the annual Military Committee Meeting between Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Joseph Dunford, last Friday.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read the rest at the link, but Rodriguez Range could close tomorrow and the THAAD battery could redeploy back to the United States and the leftists will still find “hot potato” issues to bash USFK with.  Remember these are the same people who created a hot potato issue by claiming a USFK mortician polluted the Han River and exposed everyone in Seoul to cancer.  They even convinced most people in Korea that eating US-beef would kill them.

The bottom line is that the Korean left will never be happy until USFK is gone.  That is there ultimate goal with sensationalizing every “hot potato” issue.

US & ROK Defense Chiefs Fail to Reach OPCON Transfer Agreement

Like I have said before I will believe it when I see the OPCON transfer happen:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, right, shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis before a joint press conference in Seoul Saturday. [YONHAP]

The Moon Jae-in administration’s ambition to regain wartime operational control from the United States has hit a snag, as the latest security consultation by U.S. and Korean defense chiefs failed to approve a restructuring plan for the combined forces.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis attended an annual Security Consultative Meeting on Saturday in Seoul, accompanied by top military officials. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and other key issues concerning the Korea-U.S. alliance, were discussed.

Following the discussion, the 49th of its kind, a joint communique was issued. Song and Mattis also addressed reporters in a press conference.

According to the joint communique, Song and Mattis pledged to work together to implement an agreement made in June by Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump to “enable the expeditious conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control.”

But conspicuously missing from the communique was the much-anticipated approval of a plan for a new Combined Forces Command to oversee Korean and U.S. troops on the peninsula after the transfer. Song and Mattis were updated on the draft organization of the future Combined Forced Command and decided to continue to refine the draft through combined exercises and certifications, it said.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of National Defense told the National Assembly that the structure of a future combined forces would be discussed and approved at the Song-Mattis meeting. According to the draft, a Korean general would act as chief commander of the combined troops and an American general was to serve as deputy commander.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but the talk of an OPCON transfer has been going on for many years due to Korean governmental delay games.  You can read more about the OPCON transfer at the below link:

“Early” Transfer of OPCON of Military Forces to Korea Will Not Happen Until Early 2020’s

US and ROK Defense Chiefs Condemn North Korean Provocations

Some strong language from the US and ROK Defense Chiefs:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) shakes hands with his American counterpart James Mattis before a joint press conference in Seoul on Oct. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States made clear Saturday that North Korea’s provocations will never be tolerated, as the two warned any act of aggression will be met with a “massive military response.”

They also stressed it’s pipe dream for North Korea to be recognized as a nuclear power.

The allies “reaffirmed that any North Korean aggression or military provocation will not be tolerated,” read the joint communique issued after their annual defense ministerial talks.

The two sides will continue combined efforts to “make North Korea understand that it cannot achieve the ends it seeks through its provocative behavior,” it added.

South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo told reporters that he and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis condemned the North’s reckless provocations, including a series of recent ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but I guess the question now becomes what is an “act of aggression”?  Does ballistic missile and nuclear tests count as an act of aggression worth a massive military response?

Secretary of Defense Mattis to Visit Troops in Korea Wearing His Marine Uniform

It will be interesting to see what the North Koreans have to say about this visit and messaging by US Secretary Defense James Mattis:

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) and his American counterpart James Mattis in an image provided by Yonhap News TV. (Yonhap)

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Monday he and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis plan to use military uniforms for a joint warning message to North Korea this week, when they meet in South Korea for bilateral annual talks.

Song proposed that Mattis wear a Marine Corps combat uniform, instead of a suit, in meeting with the allies’ troops on the peninsula together. The Pentagon chief is a retired Marine Corps general.

Song, a former Navy admiral and chief of staff, will be dressed in a Navy combat uniform as well.

“I offered that to Secretary of Defense Mattis and he responded positively without hesitation,” the minister told reporters during a visit to Clark, the Philippines, for a regional security forum hosted by Southeast Asian countries.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Lawmaker Wants US-ROK SOFA Revised to Make USFK Report All Military Training Activities

Here is the latest SOFA complaint:

The sound of multiple gunshots from a supply depot of the U.S. Forces Korea resounded through part of the southeastern city of Busan every evening for three days from June 20 to 22.

Residents, petrified by the unexpected noise, made frantic calls to the police to figure out what was going on, but to no avail as the police had no idea either.

Only later did the police figure out the USFK had been firing blanks with automatic firearms during a defense drill.

At the same time, residents near a forest in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province, had to endure the sounds of flyovers, takeoffs and landings of army helicopters for a while.

The drill, later reported to be by the USFK, continued two to three times a week for over a year from early 2016.

Faced with complaints from nearby residents, the defense ministry checked with the USFK which said it had reached a verbal agreement on helicopter drills with the local government.

South Chungcheong provincial government and Dangjin municipal government, however, denied making any such agreement.

With concerns over unannounced drills growing among citizens, Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor opposition Justice Party called for a revision of the rules on USFK operations.

The Korea-U.S. joint committee on the State of Forces Agreement (SOFA) came up with preventive measures to secure the safety of citizens regarding USFK operations in 2003.

The move followed the Yangju Highway Incident in which two schoolgirls were crushed to death by an American tracked vehicle in 2002.

According to the 2003 agreement, the USFK has to report its drills beforehand to the South Korean army and local governments.

However, the regulation is applied only limitedly in northern Gyeonggi Province, excluding other regions in the country from getting prior notification.

“If it had been applied to the entire country from the beginning, all parties the defense ministry, local governments, police, and local people would have not had to suffer,” Kim said.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but it will interesting to see what the USFK response is because there must be a reason why the whole country was not included in the revision in 2003 and the ROK government agreed to it.

Further Reading:

GI Myths: The Unfair US-ROK SOFA Agreement

Trump To Be First US President to Make Two Day Visit To South Korea in 25 Years

It is going to be really interesting to see what President Trump says during his visit to South Korea.  On prior foreign visits since taking the Presidency he has been pretty restrained with what he has said.  However, it will be interesting to see if he makes any “tear down this wall” like statements to North Korea during his visit:

President Donald Trump

South Korea will provide the best treatment it can offer to a foreign dignitary when U.S. President Donald Trump arrives here Nov. 7 for a two-day state visit, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.

Trump will be the first sitting U.S. head of state to make a “state visit” in 25 years following George H. W. Bush in 1992. He will also be the first head of state to visit Korea since the Moon Jae-in government was launched in May.

“A state visit is made only once for a country during a Korean president’s term,” presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.“Considering this, Trump’s state visit means we are treating him with the best respect as a top guest.”

Foreign leaders’ visits are divided into state, official, working and private visits, with each governed by different protocols.

A state visit usually includes welcome and farewell ceremonies upon arrival and departure, an artillery salute, an official welcome ceremony at Cheong Wa Dae, a state dinner with a performance, a summit and cultural programs. Trump’s visit this time will include almost all such events, according to Park.

Trump and first lady Melania will arrive here in the morning following their visit to Japan. They will leave for Beijing in the afternoon the next day. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will also accompany the first couple as a member of the official entourage.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but President Trump will arrive on the morning of November 7th and is scheduled to give a speech to the National Assembly after visiting the Blue House.  There are no plans to visit the DMZ during his visit because of the current tensions with North Korea.

South Korea’s Special Presidential Advisor Renews Opposition to THAAD and Hints at Ending US-ROK Alliance

The Steve Bannon of the President Moon administration may be putting out a trial balloon of the North Korea policy the ROK President may ultimately move towards:

Moon Chung-in

Meanwhile President Moon has declared a commitment to avoiding war no matter what, and last week Moon Chung-in, his special envoy for unification issues, approvingly stated that many South Koreans are ready to decouple the alliance in order to keep the peace. The Yonsei professor also renewed his opposition to the stationing of THAAD and called for recognition of the North as a nuclear power. While claiming not to speak for the president, despite his special status, he made sure to add that many people in the Blue House agree with him.

Let there be no doubt that Professor Moon is saying what President Moon would say if Kim Jong Un could just bring himself to sit quietly for a month or two. The envoy’s apparent function (his famous bluntness precluding any traditionally diplomatic one) is to habituate a domestic audience to messages the Blue House will issue in due course.  [B.R. Myers]

I highly recommend reading the entire article by ROK Drop favorite B.R. Myers at the link.  However, is anyone else seeing a possible perfect storm of events that could lead to a massive shake up in the US-ROK alliance?

Is It Time for A US Military Withdrawal from South Korea?

That is what columnist Oh Young-jin in the Korea Times is saying that South Korea should prepare for :

Oh Young-jin

Just the talk of a U.S. pullout could shake the Korean economy upside down, sending foreign investors packing and leaving.

So if there would be a separation between the two, it would be the U.S. that has a change of heart.

There have been distinct signs that this is happening.

First, Henry Kissinger, a U.S. guru of diplomacy serving as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations, is a strong advocate for that. Typical of big power politics, wrapped in the trappings of realpolitik, the Nobel Peace Prize winner suggests that the U.S. should deal directly with China to resolve the North Korean crisis.

He suggests that the U.S. address China’s biggest concern ― Korean unification led by Seoul that sees American GIs and their Korean allies breathing down its neck with the buffer of the North gone. Kissinger’s solution is pulling out U.S. troops out of the Korean Peninsula.

Second, why is the Kissinger formula noteworthy? The answer lies in Steve Bannon, a mentor to U.S. President Donald Trump, who recently was fired as chief strategist. He was right on the money when he referred to the U.S. withdrawal from the South to settle the North Korean crisis, although he dismissed it as a remote possibility.  (………)

Seoul should be prepared for three contingencies ― a total U.S. withdrawal, partial and maintenance of the status quo. The first scenario is comparable to the Paris peace accord struck by the U.S. and the communist Vietnamese, which led to the fall of Saigon as the U.S. troops were leaving. The examples for the second are Iraq and Afghanistan where the U.S. has drastically reduced its troops, which has seen an occasional surge. The third is the current situation.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

President Trump Pushes President Moon on Paying More for US Troops

It seems like an inevitability that the ROK will end up paying more for the upkeep of the US-ROK alliance since it is an issue that President Trump continues to highlight:

President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hand with U.S. President Donald Trump in their joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in faced a demand on Friday by U.S. President Donald Trump to resolve trade imbalance between the two countries and pay more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops in Korea, while winning assurances for stronger defense measures to deter North Korea’s rapidly advancing threats.

In the joint press conference that followed the Oval Office summit, Trump said the era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed. “And frankly, that patience is over,” he added. After calling upon regional powers and all responsible nations to implement sanctions and pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs, Trump said now the goal is “peace, stability and prosperity for the region.”

The United States will defend itself and its allies, Trump said, and as part of that commitment, he said he wants to ensure that the cost of U.S. military presence in South Korea is equitably shared. “Burden sharing is a very important factor,” he said. “A factor that is becoming more and more prevalent, certainly in this administration.”

Trump also spoke of a “fair and reciprocal economic relationship” with South Korea, while complaining that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement has increased the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea by more than $11 billion.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.