Some People Concerned Pentagon Official Visit to South Korea May Be Sign of Impending Evacuation of US Citizens

If the US government orders the evacuation of US citizens from South Korea then yes it is probably time to be concerned about an impending strike on North Korea, however people should not read more into this visit which is routine:

Elisabeth Cordray, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, visited South Korea after North Korea’s latest nuclear test to check on preparations for evacuating U.S. citizens in the event of war, it emerged Tuesday.

The visit has sparked speculation of an impending U.S. military attack against North Korea, but the U.S. Forces Korea claimed Cordray’s visit was a “routine inspection.”

Cordray visited the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the logistic support arm of the Eighth Army, in Daegu on Sep. 13 and met its commander, John Sullivan, according to her Facebook page.

The command said Tuesday that Cordray “familiarized” herself with the process of evacuating U.S. citizens from South Korea in case of an emergency. She also discussed the readiness level of U.S. troops and was briefed on progress in relocating the main USFK military garrison in Yongsan to Pyeongtaek.  [Chosun Ilbo via reader tip]

You can read more at the link, but it seems to me that Ms. Cordray would be negligent in her duties if she did not get better familiarized with the evacuation process in South Korea if needed.

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.

8th Army Commander Calls Camp Humphreys Expansion 80% Complete

Here is an update on the Camp Humphreys expansion project:

Originally a small fighter base during the Korean War, Camp Humphreys has transformed into the peninsula’s largest military installation.

Aerial snapshots taken Wednesday show a transformation 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal calls 80 percent done.

Barracks and training ranges can be seen sprawling along the banks of Anseong River to the north as family housing and schools cut into vast rice paddies to the south.

Four-lane boulevards bisect block after block of new buildings. The base looks more like the massive U.S. installations of Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas than it does the old Korean War-era camps filled with Quonset huts north of the Han River.

However, the images also show sore spots for the $10.7 billion project aimed to fulfill a 2004 agreement between Seoul and Washington to move the bulk of U.S. forces 40 miles south of Seoul.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.


ROK Defense Ministry Advocates to Local Residents that THAAD Deployment is Temporary

I think the key word in this article is “temporary”.  What is temporary about the THAAD deployment to South Korea?  Are North Korea’s missile going to magically disappear one day to where South Korea will no longer need the THAAD battery?:

Seongju residents gather on Aug. 30 after receiving letters from the Defense Ministry concerning the proposed deployment of four additional THAAD missile launchers. The sign is calling for those opposed to THAAD missile deployment to come to Soseong-ri, Seongju, North Gyeongsan Province on the day that the launchers are to be installed. (Provided by the Committee Opposed to THAAD Deployment)

Groups opposing the THAAD deployment are up in arms after revelations that Minister of Defense Song Young-moon sent a letter to Seongju and Gimcheon residents asking them for their “understanding” on the antimissile system’s temporary deployment. Groups working to oppose the THAAD deployment reported on Aug. 30 that Ministry of Defense officials, including active colonels and lieutenant colonels in the military, had traveled to the homes of around 20 people on Aug. 23–25 to deliver the letter from Song. The homes included those of the leaders of seven villages in the Seongju and Gimcheon areas, as well as the chairs of senior citizens’ and women’s associations, the groups said.

The letter stated that the temporary THAAD deployment was “unavoidable for a priority response to the North Korean threat.” “A temporary deployment means temporarily installing THAAD in open terrain with minimal preparations based on a small-scale environmental impact assessment, as opposed to completing the deployment after a general environmental impact assessment and the building of a permanently infrastructure,” it explained.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Government Nearing Completion of Environmental Assessment of Seongju THAAD Site

It will be interesting to see if the protesters allow the additional THAAD equipment on to the site considering the blockade they have been maintaining.  Will the Moon administration be willing to send in police to forcibly remove grandmas and grandpas off of the road?  We are about to find out:

South Korea is poised to complete the installment of a US missile shield next week, officials said Friday, despite unabated controversy over the Moon Jae-in government’s flip-flopping on the timing of the deployment.

The stationing of the remaining four launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system comes as the Environment Ministry wraps up a small-scale environmental review. The equipment will join the already operational two launchers, radar and other assets to form a full-fledged battery.

The move will also coincide with a maiden face-to-face meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, set for Wednesday in Washington.

“Currently a small-scale environmental impact assessment is under way, and I can’t say it for certain, but the results are likely to come out around Monday,” a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

The Ministry of National Defense echoed the view, saying the four launchers and related apparatus will be brought to the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, as soon as the survey is finished.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link.

Missing Teenager of USFK Servicemember Found In Seoul

Here is some good news that this missing American teenager was found safe in Seoul:

A U.S. soldier’s teenage daughter was found safe in Seoul and was reunited with her family Thursday, two weeks after she vanished from Camp Humphreys, a spokesman said.

Fatima Andrea Wdave, 17, was reported missing after she failed to report to her summer job at a sushi restaurant outside the Army garrison, about 35 miles south of the South Korean capital.

The U.S. military put out an all-points bulletin saying she was last seen outside her on-post quarters at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 10.

U.S. military police picked her up in Seoul after she was located on Thursday and took her back to her family on Humphreys.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

Three Senior US Military Leaders to Issue Joint Statement on North Korea

I can’t remember anytime that USFK has hosted two combatant commanders as well as the commander of an extremely important Pentagon organization like the Missile Defense Agency:

Three top U.S. military commanders plan to issue a strong warning message to North Korea in a rare joint press availability here later Tuesday, officials said.

Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris, Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten and Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves are scheduled to hold a press conference at a local U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) base.

It’s quite unusual for the U.S. commanding generals serving abroad to gather in South Korea and release public statements together.

It apparently reflects Washington’s alertness against North Korea’s rapid development of nuclear bombs and missiles.

In July, the North successfully test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The U.S. intelligence community also believes the secretive communist nation has made significant progress in miniaturizing nuclear warheads.

The U.S. commanders are expected to stressed that a military option will be on the table as the last means to use in case of an eventual failure in efforts to resolve the North Korea issue via diplomacy, a defense source said.  [Yonhap]

Anyone else remember anytime this many senior leaders have visited South Korea together?

General Vandal Apologizes for Photo Incident During THAAD Deployment to Seongju

My guess would be this apology must be something the ROK government recommended to USFK to do in order to get the protesters to stop blockading the road considering it is happening four months after the fact.  I guess we will see if this will help lead to the end of the blockade:

Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal

Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the 8th U.S. Army, apologized Sunday to the people of Seongju over one of his soldiers using a smartphone to film a protest involving physical clashes, smiling as he did so.

The Seongju residents rejected Vandal’s apology, saying it was four months too late.

First, Vandal and his superior officer, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Vincent Brooks, should find a better way of dealing with this incident. The protesters should stop using the apology issue for political purposes.

The incident happened in the early hours of April 26 when a convoy of U.S. military vehicles pushed their way through to deliver equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, a U.S. missile interceptor, to the site in the vicinity. Twelve people were injured. A GI in one vehicle was caught filming the scene with a snigger on his face.

For that, Vandal went down to Seongju and bowed at a press conference after the residents refused to meet him. He said the soldier’s behavior was inappropriate and that he was fresh on his Korean tour and had not finished his orientation program.

The residents questioned Vandal’s sincerity because his apology came four months after the incident, despite repeated demands. The residents claimed they felt ignored by Vandal.

Vandal should have apologized earlier. The USFK is often belated in dealing with accidents in relation to Koreans. One example is the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident where a U.S. military vehicle crushed two Korean girls to death. Then, the USFK dragged its feet, letting the incident grow out of proportion in a major PR fiasco.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but the Korea Times in regards to the 2002 Yangju Highway Incident do not know what they are talking about.  Both the 8th Army commander and the 2nd Infantry Division commander apologized after the accident happened.  2ID even paid an initial $1,000 payment to the families to assist with funeral expenses.  Then 2ID soldiers held a candlelight vigil and fundraising drive in honor of the two girls that were tragically killed.  The fundraiser raised $22,000 for the families.

2ID soldiers attend candle light vigil in memory of Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun.

Finally the USFK commander put the soldiers on court martial strictly for PR purposes despite this being a clear accident.  Anyway much more about the 2002 accident can be read at the below link:

GI Flashbacks: The 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident

35th ADA Brigade In Korea Announces Completion of Patriot Modernization Effort

USFK’s Patriot missile defense batteries have become more capable:

The U.S. Army announced that its 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, successfully completed a Patriot missile defense system modernization effort that will provide protection from potential North Korean attacks.

Targa Gibbs, Patriot modernization project officer of the brigade, said that the eight-month task was aimed at ensuring that everything worked and met the industry standard, and training soldiers and crew on the new equipment.

“As part of the training, the batteries networked into the battalion data link architecture from geographically dispersed locations around the peninsula and conducted air battles,” the army said in a statement Monday.

The largest benefit of the overhaul was said to be the replacement of many systems and updating outdated technology. In part of an ongoing plan to enhance air defense capabilities on the Korean Peninsula, the brigade will, in the coming months, modernize their Avengers surface-to-air missile system that protects ground units from incoming short-range missiles, said the army.

The statement did not mention whether the brigade adopted and trained for the all-new Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE), a Lockheed Martin hit-to-kill interceptor, but a local military source told the JoongAng Ilbo that it has.

The PAC-3 MSE incorporates a larger, dual-pulse solid rocket motor, larger fins and upgraded actuators and thermal batteries, according to descriptions from Lockheed Martin.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link as well from the original press release from the Army.