Joint S. Korea-US army unit to be launched

September 4, 2014

A joint ROK-U.S. army division will be launched next year. (Yonhap)

By Jun Ji-hye

A joint ROK-U.S. army division will be launched next year, while the relocation of U.S. forces to Pyeongtaek will be implemented as scheduled.

The 2nd U.S. Infantry Division will comprise the main component of the combined division that will be augmented by a regiment of ROK troops.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Choi Yoon-hee and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti has agreed to this force enhancement plan, according to the Ministry of National Defense in a statement Thursday.

“The operational parameters of the envisioned division will be drawn up during the first half of next year,” the statement said.

The division will be commanded by a two-star U.S. general with a Korean brigadier general as deputy.

In peacetime, the division will be run with a skeleton crew of 30 staff members from each country.

It will be activated when a threat is detected, ministry officials said.

Korean staff will work at the U.S. 2nd Division in Uijeongbu until it is transferred to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, in 2016 in accordance with the Land Partnership Plan (LPP).

The plan has dashed speculation that some American soldiers would remain north of the Han River.

The U.S. Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul and 2nd Division are scheduled to move to Pyeongtaek by the end of 2016, according to the Yongsan Relocation Plan (YRP) along with the LPP.

However, a fresh rumor arose that the ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) may stay on in Yongsan, after Seoul accepted a request from Washington.

“The government wants to minimize the number of U.S. troops in the CFC if they are allowed to stay in Yongsan. But officials are also concerned about a setback in implementing the plans,” an unidentified source was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

The ministry denied the reports.

The two countries did not make a decision on the location of the CFC when the two agreed on the YRP and LPP as the command was to be dissolved after the wartime operational control (OPCON) handover from Washington to Seoul.

The transfer is scheduled for 2015 but the situation remains up in the air after the Park Geun-hye administration asked that it be postponed, citing growing threats from Pyongyang.

Foreign and defense chiefs of the two allies will reportedly meet in October for a final round of talks on the issue.