By Lee Tae-hoon
Seoul and Washington will sign a strategic planning directive (SPD) this month that maps out joint operational tactics of the two allies in the case of North Korean military attacks, defense officials said Tuesday. They said the directive will include plans to send U.S. troops and military assets from Japan to the Korean Peninsula under the command of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii.
“Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and his U.S. counterpart Martin E. Dempsey will sign the SPD during the former’s scheduled trip to the United States later this month,” a JCS spokesman said, asking not to publicize Jung’s itinerary for security reasons.
“The two are expected to discuss how the allies will respond to the changed security situation on the peninsula, following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the rise of his youngest son Jong-un as his successor.”
He noted that the two countries have worked out the joint counter-provocation plan to effectively deter military threats since the North’s unexpected shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea on Nov. 23, 2010. Previously, only South Korean forces responded to North Korean provocations, whereas U.S. Forces in Korea were committed to commanding both its troops and Korean military forces should a war break out.
Another JCS official said that the signing of the SPD would allow USPACOM to withdraw U.S. Marines from Okinawa and mobilize military assets, such as FA-18s from U.S. bases in Japan. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta agreed in October last year to finalize a joint operational plan by the end of 2011 to counter potential provocations by the Stalinist North at their annual bilateral security meeting in Seoul.
Kim said the U.S. has pledged to provide "overwhelming reinforcements" to the Korean Peninsula and to maintain the current level of the U.S. forces here in a display of its firm commitment to the defense of the South.
Panetta reiterated that budget cuts in the U.S. will not reduce the country's commitment to the region. The U.S. military strength in Japan is about 38,000 ashore and 11,000 afloat, and U.S. forces are dispersed among 85 facilities in Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa. The U.S. Forces in Japan reportedly mobilized RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters from Japanese bases for a U.S. and South Korean joint military drill in the West Sea in late November 2010.