The U.S. and South Korean militaries will soon form a plan to create a new joint command between the two countries, becoming effective when Seoul regains its wartime operational control (OPCON) of the country’s troops.
The Ministry of National Defense announced the plans on Thursday, South Korean media agency Yonhap News reported.
The announcement comes a day before North Korea renewed threats against the U.S. territory of Guam on Friday, Oct, 13, as South Korea and the United States prepared for a joint naval exercise next week.
The allied countries are planning to approve the arrangement in their annual Military Committee Meeting (MCM) and Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) later this month.
This year’s annual MCM session will be held in Seoul on Oct. 27 and will include the chairman of the allies’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford. It will be held one day before the ministerial SCM.
“(The two sides) will authorize the creation of the future command of combined forces during the MCM and the SCM,” the ministry said in a report.
After the meetings, the allies will establish a system with a South Korean commander and a U.S. deputy commander, according to Yonhap.
The existing Combined Forces Command (CFC) is led by a four-star U.S. general while a four-star South Korean general serves as deputy commander. The CFC was formed in 1978 as the headquarters of joint military operations.
U.S. Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks currently leads the CFC as commander of the 28,500 U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). He also doubles as chief of the United Nations Command (UNC).
Brook’s will continue to lead the UNC, even if a new format of a combined command is created, Yonhap reported.
But the United States is allegedly not on board with having a four-star general serving as a South Korean commander’s deputy in the envisioned command, according to Yonhap. The Pentagon instead is expected to pick a three-star general to fill the position.
On the recent Guam threat, North Korea said in a state-run KCNA report, “We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense, including a salvo of missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam.” It quoted Kim Kwang Hak, a researcher at the North Korean Institute for American Studies, which is overseen by the North Korean Foreign Ministry.
“The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire,” the statement added.
The reclusive, communist regime has made many such threats in the past. But in August, President Donald Trump gave as good as he got, saying that he would bring “fire and fury” and “totally destroy” the country if North Korea were to go too far.
The U.S.-South Korea drill involves aircraft carrier The USS Ronald Reagan, slated to begin Monday in the waters east and west of South Korea. The 10-day exercise will “promote communications, interoperability, and partnership in the 7th Fleet area of operations,” reads a statement from the Navy’s 7th Fleet.