The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: ROK-US Issues (page 1 of 71)

New Korea-US OPLAN calls for “preemptive attack,” R-E-S-P-E-C-T… and other things

– A South Korean military official who asked not to be named told the JoongAng Ilbo that Korea and the United States signed in June a new operation plan (OPLAN) which would guide joint military operations in the event of a war with North Korea. What’s interesting about this OPLAN is that unlike the OPLANs of the past, which called for the allies to respond to a North Korean invasion by falling back to assigned locations, waiting for reinforcements and counterattacking, the latest plan – called OPLAN 5015 – calls for launching an immediate counterattack sans retreat, and operations to take out North Korea’s missiles, nukes and other WMDs, something the JoongAng calls a “virtual preemptive attack.”

The military official said offensive punch has grown significantly with its development of nuclear weapons and missiles and the OPLAN was changed because the South would suffer too many losses unless the North’s offensive power was blunted quickly.

That’s not all. The military official said OPLAN 5015 also includes joint plans to respond to localized North Korean provocations. Seoul had been calling for such a joint action plan, but Washington had been worried that the South Korean military might overreact to a provocation and blow things up into a full-scale war. Now, however, the United States would provide support with its own weapons in the case of a localized North Korean provocation should such support be needed. The official said the United States’ basic position is to deter North Korean provocations and maintain the peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, but the new OPLAN greatly reflects the South Korean position.

MARMOT’S NOTE: Seems to me Seoul is trying to keep the North Koreans honest by scaring them with the United States, something the South Koreans have done before. Not sure how the Americans are going to feel about leaking this stuff to the press, though.

– Speaking of Korea-US military cooperation, SBS laments the fact that during the last crisis, South Korea was almost completely dependent on US intelligence gathering and strategic weaponry. It was the United States that detected the disappearance of North Korea’s submarine fleet. It was the United States that detected the movement of North Korean hovercrafts south towards the DMZ. Seoul had to rely on American strategic assets to respond to North Korea’s show of force.

SBS concludes with some quality whinging about how South Korea has been prevented by “surrounding nations” (but really, mostly the United States) from developing nuclear submarines and missile/rocket systems that could be used to deter the North or launch spy satellites into space. Mind you, these complaints are in large part justified IMHO, but me thinks a large part of the problem is simply bureaucratic inertia – Korea has been relying so long on US intelligence and strategic assets that it’s simply easier to keep doing so rather than change it. And perhaps that’s not such a bad thing – alliances, like all organizations, need a division of labor, and perhaps its more efficient to rely on the Americans to do what they do best – like high-tech intelligence gathering and strategic air and sea assets.

– Heo Yeong-il, the vice spokesperson for the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, has resigned after he posted on Facebook that he “respects” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Well, he actually said he respected both South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Comrade Kim for making tough decisions during the latest crisis, and that he actually respected Park more for making the really tough call, but that was enough for people to call for his head. In announcing his resignation, he apologized to the two soldiers who had their legs blown off at the DMZ and explained that all he was trying to do convey to people how much he wanted peace and reunification.

PHOTO: Joint Korea-US exercises in 2011. © Republic of Korea Armed Forces

Trump on US-ROK Cost Sharing Agreement: “It’s Crazy”

(Current) Republican presidential nominee front runner Donald Trump blew a sour note in Korean media, criticizing South Korea for riding the backs of U.S. taxpayers for its security while giving “nothing” in return.   According to the Korea Herald,

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.

“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.

“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”

“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”

Seoul and Washington reached a new five-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) last year, with Seoul agreeing to increase its contribution 5.8% to $867 million adjusted each year by formula for inflation with increases capped at 4%.  The agreement increased Korea’s cost share from approximately 40% to 42% and proved unpopular with Korean media and among Koreans.


 

Arirang TV broadcast two different segments.  In the first segment Mark Broome cited Trump’s “critical comment”.  In the later segment, the visibly ambivalent Broome cited Trump’s “misguided comment” and opined that “the flamboyant American billionaire… might want to get his facts straight.

Here’s the first, “critical comment” video:

…and here’s the “misguided comment” video:

https://youtu.be/2U-oJ_TnYe4

Arirang Television is operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation (KIBF).

 

BREAKING: Would the nice wackjob PLEASE stop attacking ambassadors. Thank you very much.

U.S. ambassador Mark Lippert was reportedly injured in an attack this morning by a knife-wielding, war-opposing, Dokdo-protecting assailant:

Kim slashed the right side of Lippert’s face opening a five centimeter gash while shouting that South and North Korea must be unified and the military training to prepare for war must halt.

Kim shouted “Oppose the war” as he was taken away in the police car.

Lipper was sent to Kangbuk Samsung Medical Center as he was severely injured and bleeding from his face and arm.

The kicker is, the guy had been arrested before for throwing a chunk of concrete at the Japanese ambassador in 2010.

UPDATE: The attacker apparently got a suspended sentence for the attack on the Japanese ambassador. Oh, and he also tried to light himself on fire in 2007 as a call to investigate a 1988 attack on the headquarters of the pro-unification civic group he now heads.

The ruling party, meanwhile, is calling the attack an “attack on the Korea-U.S. alliance” and promised to get to the bottom of it. Translation: expect more arrests.

UPDATE 2: Well, on a positive note, at least Kim was well dressed, although I’m not sure about the pink-yellow combo.

UPDATE 3: According to the Hani, some of the participants at the event Lippert was attending were wondering how the hell Kim – a well-recognized troublemaker – was able to get in. No doubt the U.S. side will be wondering, too.

Oh, and President Obama called the ambassador to wish him well, too.

UPDATE 4: The ambassador’s a trooper.

And back to Mr. Kim. On his blog, he apparently lists as “disklikes” the Taft-Katsura Memorandum and that Korea was divided because of the “American and Japanese bastards.” On his wishlist, he apparently wants South and North Korea to both use “Corea” and, of course, reunification.

UPDATE 5: This piece has a Nifty graphic of how the attack went down.

And interestingly enough, Ambassador Lippert was an intelligence officer with SEAL Team 6, although his last deployment might not necessarily have been voluntary.

Unease about Korea-U.S.-Japan intel sharing agreement

Remember that military intelligence sharing agreement between Korea and Japan that got cancelled an hour before the signing agreement in 2012?

Well, we’ve got a new one. And this one won’t be cancelled before signing because it’s already been signed.

There were no smiling photo ops or handshakes when the U.S., Japan and South Korea kicked off their trilateral intelligence-sharing pact aimed at improving defenses against North Korean missile threats.

The defense ministry in Seoul confirmed at a regular press briefing on Monday—not at a joint signing ceremony—that the three-way pact had taken effect, keeping a low profile on the deal.

“The deal allows Seoul and Tokyo to share information only indirectly via the U.S.—an arrangement that reflects the strained Korean-Japanese relations,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

“Keeping a low profile” is one way to put it. “Sneaking it past the Korean public” might be another way.

This pact differs from the aborted 2012 pact in that it’s a trilateral one with the United States, which will play the role of middleman:

The trilateral arrangement allows Seoul and Tokyo to share military secrets on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats via the U.S., which has bilateral military intelligence sharing accords with each of the two Asian countries.
[…]
South Korea and Japan, however, do not directly share sensitive information under the pact, an arrangement that reflects the bitter memory of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.

When the South Korean and Japanese defense ministries intend to share secret information between them, they can do so by providing the information to the U.S. based on the accords, according to the agreement.

The conservative press has been largely supportive of the agreement, which is not surprising because they liked the 2012 one, too. The JoongAng Ilbo writes – quite reasonably, IMHO – that Seoul and Tokyo need to compartmentalize when it comes to historical issues and matters of security cooperation:

The three-way security pact will bring more accurate information on North Korean nuclear and missile dangers. South Korea now has access to Japan’s intelligence through their reconnaissance military capabilities in space, sky, sea and land. Tokyo is also said to have a powerful network of sources in North Korea. With North Korea nearing the stage of weaponizing nuclear bombs into missile warheads and capable of shooting missiles from mobile launchers, intelligence resources have become crucial. Security readiness should not be associated with any past issues or public sentiment.

The Korean Defense Ministry said the trilateral information sharing is limited to intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear abilities and missiles and unrelated to the U.S.-led missile defense program. The government should make it clear to the public that its latest move does not indicate participation in the U.S. missile defense program that is being protested by China and Russia. At the same time, Seoul should use the momentum to improve ties with Tokyo. Tokyo should first offer a genuine apology in the thorny issue concerning wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women during the upcoming vice ministerial meeting in Seoul.

The Dong-A Ilbo argues likewise:

It would be wise to separate national security from history issues to jointly cope with common threats. Equipped with surveillance satellites, strategic patrol aircrafts and Aegis destroyers capable of precisely tracking movements at North Korea’s nuclear test sites, missile bases and transporter erector launchers, Japan is partly ahead of South Korea in capabilities for conducting surveillance on the North. If the sharing of Japan’s intelligence with South Korea and the United States would reduce blind spots in surveillance over North Korea, making it easier for them to immediately react to the situation in the event of an emergency.

Those on the more left-wing side of the aisle are not huge fans of the agreement, in regards to both its content and the manner in which it was concluded. The Hankyoreh, for instance, didn’t like it when it was first announced, and it really didn’t like it when it found out it had already been signed. To sum up its complaints:

  • The Defense Ministry pushed this agreement in secret with no effort made to get public support.
  • By defining the agreement as one between military authorities rather than one between governments, the administration is attempting an end run around the National Assembly, in violation of a 1999 Constitutional Court decision declaring all agreements regarding national security subject to parliamentary approval.
  • The United States took a leading role in pushing the agreement because it’s trying to build a trilateral military alliance against China. The agreement is also connected to the U.S. missile defence initiative.
  • By defining North Korea as a common enemy and sharing intelligence, the agreement helps Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ambitions to make Japan a military power. It also gives Japan more room to exercise “collective self defense” on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Korea doesn’t get anything out of it. Seoul can get the intel it needs on North Korean nukes and missiles from the Americans. It doesn’t need Japan, which the Hani doesn’t think really has that much to offer in regards to intel gathering on the North anyway. Instead, Japan is likely to grow more arrogance about historical issues.
  • Did we mention that China won’t like this? Nor will North Korea, which will likely strengthen its nuke and missile capabilities. Oh, and the agreement could lead to a “new Cold War structure” with the United States, Korea and Japan on one side and North Korea, China and Russia on the other.
  • This deal is a “poison apple,” the price Korea has to pay in return for the United States accepting the delay in the transfer of wartime operational control.

Similar complaints can be read in the Kyunghyang Shinmun.

Mind you, it’s not just the lefties who think the way the intelligence sharing deal got done is problematic. The Chosun Ilbo – who seems to likes the idea of the agreement – penned an editorial yesterday blasting the government for pushing the deal in secret and essentially lying about when it was signed. The United States signed the deal on Dec. 23, and Korea and Japan signed on Dec. 26, meaning for four days, the Ministry of Defense said nothing about a deal in the works – in fact, it was only after the Japanese press reported on it that the ministry confirmed it, leading the Chosun to wonder if the government would have told us at all if the Japanese media hadn’t told us first. To make matters worse, when the ministry did tell the public on Dec. 26, they explained it would be signed and go into effect on Dec. 29 (and in fact, the vice minister’s signature is dated to Dec. 29), when in fact it had been signed on Dec. 26. And no report was made to the National Assembly until the day the agreement went into effect. The Chosun warns that the Defense Ministry’s dishonesty will only heighten suspicions at a time when there is wariness regarding Korea possibly joining the U.S. missile defense regime and Japan’s military ambitions.

Not that you asked my personal opinion about the deal, but I guess I feel about it the way I feel about the recent U.S. deal with Cuba. As for the Cuba deal itself, I suppose I can get behind it. As for the secret manner in which it was negotiated, well, that I’m not so sure about. There’s a time and place for secret diplomacy, of course. As the Brookings Institution’s Martin S. Indyk told the NYT in regards to the Cuba deal, “Negotiations are like mushrooms: They grow in the dark. That’s especially true of negotiations between longtime adversaries, where the domestic politics on both sides make it impossible to reach a deal if the negotiations are conducted in public.” I’m just not sure the intelligence deal with Japan was the aforementioned time and place. At the very least it seems you’d want to give the National Assembly at least a couple of days to debate the merits of a deal like this before it gets signed.

Photo from U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The USFK’s official drag queen show

War is Boring is one of my favorite (and perhaps Mr. Koehler’s as well) non-Korean related blogs.  They don’t mention Korea often, but sometimes they do.  Their latest blog post  that kind of mentions Korea, albeit in passing, is the U.S. Army’s only officially sanctioned drag queen show.

Yes, it happened in 1946 when American troops stationed in Europe and Japan had plenty of local diversions and attention from the USO to keep them entertained.  Post colonial Korea?  Not so much.  How did you keep men of the 7th Infantry Division stationed in Korea entertained, distracted and free from trouble from the local populace?  You dress a few men as women and put on burlesque shows.

Photo by Blue Delliquanti.

Yes, Seoul can defend itself and the U.S. should probably pull out. But to be fair…

Over at War is Boring, Kyle Mizokami argues that South Korea’s military spending choices indicate one of two different things, and both of them mean the United States no longer has any business basing troops in the country:

Maybe South Korea believes North Korea is no longer a serious problem and the South can safely strive for regional standing. If Pyongyang is no longer a threat, U.S. troops should no longer be necessary on the Korean peninsula.

The alternative is that South Korea believes North Korea is still a threat, but with Americans defending the South, Seoul can risk turning its attention outward. That amounts to United States subsidizing South Korea’s foreign policy, potentially at the cost of American lives.

Either makes a strong case for pulling U.S. troops from South Korea.

Now, we here at the Marmot’s Hole have been arguing for a withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from Korea for as long as I can remember. South Korea is more than capable of defending itself on its own, and all the United States should be providing is naval, air and logistical support.

The thing is, the arguments for pulling U.S. troops out of Korea were just as valid long, long before Seoul started spending money on amphibious landing craft instead of upgraded missile defense systems.

But before we criticize Korea for taking in interest in things such as a blue water navy and F-35 fighters, it should be noted that Korea – the world’s 12th largest economy, its seventh largest exporter and ninth largest importer – has global economic, security and humanitarian interests that have absolutely nothing to do with North Korea. Since 1993, it has sent over 40,000 troops overseas on peacekeeping missions, including ongoing operations in Lebanon, South Sudan, Afghanistan and off the Somali coast and a recently concluded one-year relief operation in the Philippines. Vessels like the ROKS Dokdo and Aegis destroyers may come in handy in these kinds of operations, which countries like Korea are going to be counted on to undertake more and more in the future.

And frankly, I don’t find this allocation of military resources to be especially unusual. Even during the Cold War, when Western countries were focused squarely on the Soviet threat and U.S. armored cavalry regiments were defending the Fulda Gap, U.S. allies such as Great Britain and France still devoted resources to protecting their interests outside of Europe, such as the Falklands and West Africa. Heck, even South Korea managed to pony up 320,000 of its best fighters to send to Vietnam from 1964 to 1973, a time when Seoul was much, much less capable of defending itself against a much more aggressive North Korean threat.

It should also be noted that the United States has not been unsupportive of Korea’s growing regional and, especially, global role. From the joint communique of 2010’s South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting:

The Secretary and the Minister reaffirmed the commitment of the U.S. and ROK Presidents to build a comprehensive strategic Alliance of bilateral, regional, and global scope, based on common values and mutual trust, as set forth in the June 2009 Joint Vision for the Alliance of the ROK and the U.S. They also reaffirmed their shared view expressed at the ROK-U.S. Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in July that the scope of Alliance cooperation should continue to broaden and deepen to encompass both closer security cooperation and more comprehensive cooperation in other areas.

And from this October’s South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting:

The Secretary and the Minister pledged that the ROK and the United States would continue to enhance close Alliance cooperation to address wide-ranging global security challenges of mutual interest, including through peacekeeping activities, stabilization and reconstruction efforts, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. In addition, the Secretary and the Minister emphasized that the Alliance’s joint response capabilities against various biological threats including disease and terrorism have been continuously enhanced through the Able Response Exercise (AR) and decided to pursue even more active bilateral cooperation on this issue. The Secretary praised the ROK’s contributions to counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden, UN peace-keeping mission in Lebanon, and reconstruction efforts in the Republic of South Sudan. Moreover, the Secretary expressed appreciation for the ROK government’s continued active participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

I think it’s a good thing that we’re beginning to redefine the Korea-U.S. alliance from a strictly defensive one against North Korea to a broader strategic global partnership. In fact, I’d argue that North Korea won’t be around forever, and if the Korea-U.S. alliance is to have a future, it needs to be based on the defense and promotion of common global interests and values, much in the same way NATO has become. Obviously, South Korea’s ability to contribute globally will be limited for the time being by its unique security situation, i.e., North Korea, but that’s no reason for it not to begin helping out now (as it has been) given the strong state of deterrence it currently enjoys vis-a-vis the North, in part thanks to the United States. And more to the point, we should not be surprised when South Korea starts acquiring the tools it needs to carry out those global missions.

One last point here. While some of Korea’s weapons systems procurements may be of limited use and/or overkill when it comes to the North Koreans – as Mikozami notes, “shooting down obsolete MiG-29s does not require budget-busting F-35s*” (Marmot’s note: shooting down Chinese J-31s in the event of a Chinese intervention would, though). Like many weapons procurements, however, there are political factors at work here, too, one of the most important on the Korean side being “solidifying the Korea-U.S. alliance.” The US$ 7 billion Seoul will spend on the F-35s might not be money spent “on equipment that’s actually useful for South Korea’s main problem, North Korea,” but it is money going to Lockheed Martin. And it’s not like Washington told Seoul, “Hey, don’t buy those F-35s! The alliance doesn’t need them!” In fact, the Americans were quite pleased with the sale, and it strikes me as a bit odd to punish Seoul with reduced security commitments for buying a weapon system we encouraged them to buy.

*Apparently, it’s something of a trend for Asian-Pacific nations with Aegis warships (namely, Korea, Japan and Australia) to also buy the F-35, and the United States very much views this as strengthening, not weakening, its Pacific alliances, including the one with Korea:

Both the Aegis and the Joint Strike Fighter, as well as the interaction between them, demonstrate how America is using military technology to strengthen its worldwide network of alliances. To begin with, the programs are both designed to strengthen the economic interdependence of America’s allies across the globe, with each nation utilizing comparative advantages in producing various parts for the Aegis and JSF, as well as further innovating them.

At the same time, systems like the F-35 and Aegis inherently foster greater interoperability between militaries that use them. This will be especially important for the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific, which currently lacks the kind of collective security mechanisms found in Europe or even the Persian Gulf. Although military systems like the F-35 and Aegis won’t be as effective in integrating regional defense as an organization like NATO, they should help prevent the kind of disasters seen at the Battle of Java should the U.S. and its allies ever find themselves fighting together in an actual conflict.

Photo courtesy of UNC – CFC – USFK

To THAAD or not to THAAD? That is Korea’s question.

What is THAAD?  It stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and it’s essentially a province/state, small country-wide anti-ballistic missile defense system.  It apparently has a range of 2,000 kilometers and the U.S. is offering it to both Japan and South Korea.  So what?  Well, the Chinese don’t like it.

(Image from JoongAng Ilbo)

Although the U.S. says it’s to protect South Korea and Japan against possible missile attack from North Korea, the pure raw capabilities of the THAAD system would indicate that the defensive target isn’t just North Korea.  The long-range THAAD missiles, along with their powerful X-Band radars, if deployed in both South Korea and Japan, offers a multilayered anti-ballistic missile defense that could theoretically render a sizable chunk of China’s ballistic missile arsenal obsolete.

Earlier this year the U.S. delivered the enormous X-Band radar that helps power the THAAD, to Kyoto, Japan and the PRC was not pleased.

The spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, said “the deployment of anti-missile systems in the Asia-Pacific and seeking unilateral security is not beneficial” to regional security. In an apparent reference to the Washington’s often quoted excuse of protecting against North Korean antagonism, Hu said the deployment should not be an “excuse to harm the security interests of other countries.”

The Chinese have given rather ominous warnings to South Korea not to adopt THAAD:

China has told South Korea that joining the U.S. missile defense system would cross a “red line” in their bilateral relationship.

And the PRC’s ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong:

“The THAAD would have a range of around 2,000 kilometers, which goes beyond the goal of countering missiles from North Korea,”

[…]

“The deployment of the THAAD will badly influence the relations between South Korea and China … It would harm China’s security system,”

Cross a “red line?”  Badly “influence” relations?  Uh, oh.  That doesn’t sound good.  South Korea, for their part, says they are not interested in THAAD because they are apparently developing their own anti-ballistic weapons system.

In Oct., 2013, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said South Korea would “definitely not join the U.S. missile defense system,” citing the associated costs and plans to develop South Korea’s own, similar system.

And that would be the so-called KAMD (“Korean Anti Missile Defense“) system, a mix of  Patriot  PAC-3 missiles, SM-6 and perhaps SM-3 missiles,  guided by the Israeli Green Pine radar.  There is also an apparent “indigenous” Korean anti-ballistic missile in the works, which may be similar to an Israeli Arrow type missile.

Publicly, this has been what the Korean government has said about why they may not adopt THAAD, but some Koreans are taking China’s tough talk seriously.  One of Korea’s most popular best selling authors, Kim Jin-myung, suspended all this other projects to rush and write a new novel titled “THAAD.”  According to Kim:

If it accepts the U.S. calls to deploy the anti-ballistic missile system here, he predicts, this will cost the country its No. 1 trading partner. China remains suspicious of the U.S. motive to deploy THAAD on the Korean Peninsula because it will nullify its ballistic missile system.

[China] reportedly believes that the United States seeks to encircle it.

If South Korea rejects the U.S. calls, Kim claims, it will not only lose its closest ally but also may face a catastrophic circumstance — a war on the peninsula.

A “war on the peninsula?”  A bit of hyperbole IMHO, but Kim Jin-myung says he’s not going to take a side in his novel.  He just believes there should be public discourse and concensus before the Korean government makes a decision on THAAD.

South Korea’s traditional ally the U.S. or China?  Not saying the choice is between the two here, but the choice for South Korea is getting increasingly more complex, especially in light of China’s growing economic power and influence.

(Graphic from the WSJ).

NOTE

Russia doesn’t like THAAD in Korea either.

 

The USKF to deactivate an entire armored brigade

This is potentially big USFK news.  The “Iron Brigade” (2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team) has been in Korea since 1965 and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved its deactivation recently.  This has been combined with other significant USFK recent developments such as the deployment of a 1st Cavalry Division armored battalion on a rotational basis to Korea and the agreement to augment the USFK with a Korean mechanized brigade (the two units to be under the overall command of an American two star general).

Hagel said that deactivation of the 2nd ID’s 1st Armored Brigade was due to “budget cuts.”  It will be replaced by a roughly equivalent armored brigade from the 1st Cavalry Division on a nine month rotational basis.  It would appear that the rotational deployment of an armored battalion (about 1/5 the size of a brigade) was dress rehearsal for this change.

Note

The loss of the 2nd ID’s 1st Armored Brigade appears to be part of a larger downsizing of the U.S. Army.  In all the army will lose three brigade combat teams this year and seven more next year.   This represents roughly a 8-10% decline in combat effectiveness and readiness from the army’s current list of 10 active divisions.  Until recently the active U.S. Army division usually has four brigade combat teams.  Most U.S. Army divisions will now be reduced to three brigade combat teams.

So, does this mean that the USFK is gonna stay in Korea forever?

The transfer of wartime control from the USFK to the ROK has been seen by many as the first step to meaningful American military withdraw from the Korean peninsula.  Well, yesterday Korea and the United States agreed to punt on the Wartime Control agreement indefinitely, meaning that the apparent “first step” out of the Korean peninsula for the U.S. military is also suspended indefinitely.

Oh well, so much for that.

In other news, it seems as if the newest addition to USFK, the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team is transitioning well in Camp Stanley, having replaced the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment that was here on a nine month deployment.  As mentioned earlier here, the Texas Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division has been rotating a heavy armored battalion of 800 some odd men into Korea since the beginning of the year.  That will apparently be continuing indefinitely too.

Wanna know what the 1st Cav’s troops are doing in Korea?  Follow their embedded local journalist from The Killeen Daily Herald (Kileen, Texas) as they run into KATUSAS, try eating Korean food (for the very first time), hike up local mountains and train.

Korea to sign on the F-35 dotted line and some KF-X news

It seems to take nations forever to figure out if they are going to buy into an expensive fighter jet procurement program, or not.  So, although Korea stated its intention to select Lockheed’s F-35 back in March of this year (40 jets for ~$7 billion USD), apparently today Korea stated its intention to actually sign on the dotted line.  What probably took six plus months was the negotiations for tech transfer for Korea’s native KF-X program.

It’s apparent that the Koreans wanted to negotiate all they could from Lockheed to get as much tech transfer as possible.  To get to this stage, the Koreans essentially has to say no to the Sweds and their Flygsystem 2020 stealth program and the Euros, who offered to throw in the kitchen sink, including full sharing of engine and avionics technology.

Despite all these promises from the Euros and the Swedes, the Koreans decided to go with the Americans for all three F-X phases, with one and two going to Boeing’s F-15K “Slam” Eagle and phase three going to Lockheed’s F-35A.  If the Koreans were okay with dissing other technology partners, pray do tell what did Boeing and/or Lockheed promise to the Koreans, regarding technology transfers?

According to the NYT:

The deal, which has yet to be signed, includes undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed to help South Korea’s $8.2 billion KF-X program to develop its own advanced fighter jet, the procurement agency said. The procurement agency said its negotiations had also involved the United States government, whose approval is often needed for technology transfers, suggesting that the deal had already received the government’s blessing.

So, what are these “… undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed…”?  What did the U.S. government agree to allow to be transferred?  It’s got to be more than what the Sweds and Euros were promising, right?  I’m damn curious.

Anyways, in other news, Japan is going forward with its own indigenous stealth jet designs (spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) called the ATD-X Shinshin.

(Photo from The Aviationist)

Hummm, the technology demonstrator (above) looks like a stealthy version of a Super Hornet.

Regarding native Korean attempts at stealth, the wheels seem to be turning slowly but excruciatingly forward.  The Defense Ministry has finally decided on which basic design the KF-X will take, ultimately opting for the double-engine configuration.  The battle between the single and twin engines have been a battle between the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD).  ADD has always wanted to the two engine design and DAPA has always been more conservative.  The cost difference between the single engine is $6.2 billion USD vs. $8.3 billion USD in R&D costs alone.  Off-the-cuff, it has been know that the ADD prefers the C103 design (i.e. non-forward canard configuration), although no twin-engine design has yet been finalized.

(ADD’s C103 design, image from Chosun.com)

With this design, the estimated cost of R&D is $8.3 billion USD and procurement of 120 craft after 2020, the total budget is expected to be $19.7 billion USD, easily Korea’s largest single defense expenditure ever.  Given the shear size of this project, getting the National Assembly to approve the budget is going to be quite an experience, I’m sure.

Any ways, KAI will be building a special development center for the aircraft and GE has been eagerly requesting to be the main contractor for the engines.  More to come, I’m sure.

Might as well spit this out while I’m on here.  In T-50 news, an internal U.S. Air Force report (the air force’s air university division, I believe) has essentially endorsed the FA-50 as the ideal platform for  America’s T-X program (trainer).

Colonel Michael Pietrucha states:

The service should procure the F-X, envisioned as a T-38 replacement, in three variants.  The base airframe; T-X, essentially a modernized T-38 equivalent purchased off the shelf- would constitute the most numerous aircraft (400).  The AT-X would take the form of an all-weather, combat-capable, multirole T-X with air-to-ground capability including guns, rockets, and precision guided munitions.  The FT-X would be a fully capable light fighter with a modern air-intercept radar and air-to-air-missile capability comparable to that of the F-16C.  The FT-X is intended as a good fit for the Air National Guard’s ASA mission and for use as an aggressor.

A  “base airframe” that’s “off the shelf” and can be tailored into “three variants” like trainer,  ground attack and fighter, huh?  There’s only one product that fits that bill: the T-50.

Oh, and lastly thumbs-up Madame President!

USFK and the ROK to form a joint division

The USFK and the ROK army has agreed to form a joint division by next year, 2015.  This join division will essentially be the current U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, plus one brigade sized Korean unit.  The division will be commanded by an American two star general and will have a one star Korean deputy general.

(Photo from Yonhap)

Apparently, this division won’t be officially formed until wartime.  The 2nd ID would function and administer itself normally.  However, a Korean brigade sized mechanized infantry unit (heavy on armored personnel carriers and tanks) will be stationed along side the 2nd ID at Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek (which itself is scheduled to be completed in 2017).  If there’s a war or an emergency situation (i.e. North Korea collapses) then the two units will officially combine.

What does this all mean?  Well, all the sources I’m reading indicates that it will mean the 2nd ID’s 1st Brigade and 2nd Aviation Combat Brigade  (both stationed in Korea) will have a consistent Korean brigade sized unit to train and exercise with.  Additionally, the division will be separate from the Combined Theater Command, i.e. the apparent structure where command of forces in Korea will be transferred to ROK control.

I wonder what this means for the other two combat brigades of the 2nd ID, the 2nd and 3rd Combat Brigades (Stryker), stationed in Ft. Lewis, Washington?  Too early to tell, but the Korean mechanized brigade technically makes one of them redundant.

An American division being augmented by a foreign brigade.  Has this ever happened before?  Even in NATO?

Notes

An American infantry division is about 17-21k men.

A mechanized brigade is about 3,000 to 4,000 men.

 

The WaPo believes Virginia Congressional candidates are pandering to Korean voters

Interestingly, the Washington Post’s editorial board has emphatically come out against Congressional candidates Barbara Comstock (Republican) and John Foust (Democrat) stated desire to introduce legislation to co-teach the “East Sea” along side the “Sea of Japan” in text books.  Both the candidates have made the campaign promise to their Korean American constituencies that, if elected, they will bring up the topic nationally in the U.S. Congress.

The WaPo’s editorial response was surprisingly strong, from the headline (“Pandering to Northern Va.’s Koreans is going to extremes”) right down to the actual text of the article which went into highly rhetorical phrases such as “poking their noses in a bitter dispute…” or “anguish and abuse…” etc.

Well, although I half jokingly said that Virginian Congressional candidates were “pandering” to their Korean American voters in an earlier post, I didn’t think the WaPo’s editorial board would take it so seriously!

Any ways, feel free to comment away.  However, bear in mind that what the Korean Americans in northern Virginia are asking for is that the term “East Sea” be taught along side the “Sea of Japan.”  The Korean Americans here, at last not officially, are not asking for “East Sea” to replace “Sea of Japan.”  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion on that particular point in this debate.

 

 

USFK MREs STILL popular in Korea?

Apparently so.  Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs.  Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs!  Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years).  Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs.  At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.

Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc.  However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible.  Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate.  Anyone have some inside information here?

The U.S. must help mediate between Korea and Japan

So, says Gi-Wook Shin and Daniel C. Sneider over at Foreign Affairs magazine. Shin and Sneider are Director and Associate Director of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.

You need to register (it’s free for three article views a month) to see the whole article, but here are a few slices:

Japan and South Korea have made repeated efforts over the past two decades to resolve their wartime history issues, but progress has always proved short-lived. South Korean officials now openly plead for the United States to step in. 

[…]

Even so, China’s bid for regional domination makes it nearly impossible for the United States to continue to stay out of the fray…. By taking a leading role in dealing with the wartime past, the United States could make it difficult for Beijing to use it for political gain.

[…]

The oft-stated notion that the United States has no responsibility for history issues is a convenient myth. The United States made several key decisions right after the war that laid the groundwork for the current dispute. These range from its decision to put aside the issue of the emperor’s responsibility to its efforts to rehabilitate nationalist conservatives — including Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, the wartime minister in charge of Japan’s military industry — to counter Japan’s leftward drift, all of which undermined efforts within Japan to make a clear break with the past...

[…]

Such decisions made sense in the context of the Cold War because of the imperatives of the struggle against the Soviet and Chinese Communists. But they don’t anymore, and it is incumbent on the Untied States to help the region reconcile its past once and for all.

Here is a more moderate appeal (i.e. largely not involving the U.S.) by Ogata Sadako, former president of Japan International Cooperation Agency, Han Sung-Joo, former foreign minister of South Korea and Ezra F. Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, in last Friday’s Washington Post opinion section.

Quest for the T-X Holy Grail

The original rational for Korea Aerospace and Lockheed’s cooperation in developing the T-50 was to build a trainer that could qualify for the “whale” or “mother lode” account: America’s replacement for the venerable, but older than dirt, T-38 Talon.

KAI and Lockheed’s chief rival has always been Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master.  In the global pre-battles between KAI and Alenia Aermacchi there have been wins and losses.  Alenia drew first blood with a win in Singapore.  Then KAI won an order from Indonesia.  Alenia won Israel.  KAI got a big order from Iraq.  Alenia won a modest order from Poland.  KAI is apparently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s with the Philippines.  It’s been back and forth for the past four years.

However, all this is early dress rehearsal for the estimated 350 new jet trainers that the U.S. Air Force will need.  This is, to say the least, a huge account, that neither side can afford to lose, thus both are playing to win.  Alenia has partnered with General Dynamics, one of the largest U.S. based aerospace companies, and has offered to manufacture the M-346 at General Dynamics’ plants in Arizona and North Carolina.  Needless to say the Koreans and Lockheed are probably dreaming up the same manufacturing arrangement in order to buyrecruit the support of influential Congressman.

Today’s Flightglobal has an excellent summary analysis (with a lot of pretty pictures) of the upcoming battle:

Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at Teal Group, calls the KAI/Lockheed T-50 Golden Eagle the “most capable” option – but also probably the most expensive to buy and operate. Lockheed declines to discuss prices, but Aboulafia estimates the T-50’s flyaway cost will be $26 million per aircraft.

[…]

The T-50, which has been in service since the mid-2000s, can reach Mach 1.5 and pull 8g, Lockheed says. The type’s single General Electric F404 engine also has an afterburner. “If the [USAF] has the budget, and they want [pilots] to [transition] easily into an F-22 or F-35, the T-50 is the choice,” says Aboulafia.

The BAE/Northrop Hawk option is the cheapest at an estimated $21 million per, but they are clearly the dark horse in this fight.  The Alenia Aermacchi option is in the middle at an estimated $24 million per.

Aboulafia says Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100 – a derivative of its M-346 trainer – holds the middle ground. The aircraft are “very modern”, have “great flying characteristics” and will likely cost about $24 million each, he estimates. The M-346 (below) is powered by two Honeywell F124-200 turbofans, can pull 8g and reach 590kt at 5,000ft (1,520m), according to Alenia Aermacchi.

[…]

“It’s a good compromise,” says Aboulafia of the T-100. “The market has spoken to that. Israel and Singapore [are] two of the most prestigious militaries around.”

Here is a blog with an interesting (but technical) specification comparison between the two jets.

It will be an interesting, hard fought battle between the two.  I am not normally a betting man, but looking at the selection process I would say that the M-346 Master has the edge if a pure trainer is what you are looking for.  Key U.S. allies with similar air power doctrines have the M-346 or have it on order (Singapore, Poland and Israel).  Out of all the KAI wins, only Indonesia has selected the T-50 as a pure trainer.  The procurement history would favor the M-346 and imply that the T-50 a bit of an underdog.  However, as it often happens, the USAF may want the “Cadillac” option and if so, then that would give the T-50 the edge.

USAF%20T-50.jpg

(Photo credit: Flightglobal)

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