US wants South Korea to help confront Chinese military, North Korea


South Korea and the United States are working on a new joint war plan as the two allies seek to keep pace with North Korea’s rapidly developing military capabilities. The new operational planning will also respond to the growing military threat presented by China, with the aim of increasingly including South Korea in a broader regional posture, as Seoul also looks at its own security challenges in the country. beyond the peninsula.

Details of the war plan were announced this week as part of the 53rd U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting, or SCM, which included today’s meeting between US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook. In the first such meeting since US President Joe Biden took office, the two officials confirmed they would jointly seek new ways to deter an increasingly assertive North Korea amid the wave. of Pyongyang’s strategic weapons developments.


The South Korean Hyunmoo-2 missiles are part of the deep strike capabilities that the South Korean-American alliance uses to neutralize threats and aggressions against South Korea, the United States and other allies.

The evolution of war plans for the Korean peninsula comes against a backdrop of American openings towards Pyongyang with a view to resuming talks, so far unsuccessful. Defense Secretary Austin has again declared diplomacy the best approach to dealing with North Korea, but at the same time, the US military is strengthening its presence in the South by stationing more units there.

“It is the right thing to do,” said an unnamed senior defense official. Voice of America. “The DPRK has improved its capabilities,” the official added. “The strategic environment has changed in recent years. The same source noted that there is currently no deadline set for completing war plan updates.

New military capabilities shown by North Korea in recent months include testing of a cruise missile, a short-range ballistic missile, a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a so-called slip vehicle. hypersonic. At the same time, South Korea has also been working on advanced military development, and its ability to bring new capabilities to the global plan is seen as an important part of the update.

The Pentagon had previously announced its intention to permanently base a US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in South Korea, while the number of troops in the country will remain stable at around 28,500. This despite the last defense authorization bill which removed a lower limit clause on the number of American troops in the peninsula, which had led some to predict that the number could drop.

US Air Force / Sgt. Tong Duong

A U.S. Army AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter prepares for take-off from Kunsan Air Force Base, Republic of Korea, after rearming and refueling, June 2013.

The United States has strengthened its commitment to provide extensive deterrence to South Korea, including nuclear and conventional weapons as well as missile defense capabilities. However, with an upcoming review of nuclear weapons policy, the role of nuclear weapons in a conflict on the peninsula may be subject to change, with reports from the United Nations. possible presentation of a “no first use” policy in this scenario.

At the same time, pressure has been exerted by some hawkish elements in the United States and South Korea to restore US tactical nuclear weapons, or nuclear partition, in the South as a counterweight to the North’s nuclear program. The US and South Korean governments have so far proven resistant to these calls, Washington dismissed the idea in September.


Kim Jong Un inspects what was supposed to be a miniaturized nuclear weapon.

In terms of cooperation between the United States and South Korea, the two countries agreed to update the strategic planning guidelines that underpin their strategy in the event of a potential conflict on the peninsula. This was last done in 2010, when the main threat Pyongyang posed was its artillery and other conventional weapons.

At the same time, the Combined Military Command is under review, heralding a potentially very significant change for South Korea. Currently, in wartime, South Korean troops would fall under US command, but Seoul is pushing more and more for operational control (OPCON) of its own forces.

US Army / Sean Kimmons

An M1 Abrams tank driver from the 3rd Infantry Division, right, and a South Korean soldier, a KATUSA or Korean Augmentation of the United States Army, perform tank maintenance after an exercise in the area of North training in Dagmar, South Korea, June 2018.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in previously stated the goal of reaching OPCON before stepping down next year, but this three-step program has been postponed due to both the COVID pandemic and North Korean missile developments. However, the subject of the feasibility of the transfer of OPCON will be reviewed again in 2022, with a view to declaring this concept fully operational by the middle of this decade.

In addition to stressing the need for a revised military strategy to respond to North Korea’s capabilities, the joint statement by the two defense chiefs identified “the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” , a reference to the body of water between Taiwan and mainland China in which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been particularly active in recent months.


Composition and flight paths of 52 Chinese People’s Liberation Army planes that entered the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, during a recent peak in activity on October 4.

This is the first time that the strategically vital Taiwan Strait has been mentioned in a joint statement by the South Korean and US defense chiefs, although the same subject has been discussed between Biden and Korean President Moon Jae-in. when they met in May.

AP Photo / Alex Brandon

US President Joe Biden listens to South Korean President Moon Jae-in speak during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington on May 27, 2021.

It is in agreement with the Pentagon Global posture examination this justifies working alongside allies and partners to deter “potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea” as part of a focus on the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, it has been confirmed that the Pentagon consulted with South Korea during the development of the still classified journal.

As part of the revised posture, South Korea will have to contribute to efforts to ensure security and stability in the region as a bulwark against perceived Chinese aggression and its vast maritime claims. It also matches some developments within Seoul’s military, including plans to deploy real aircraft carriers, in addition to amphibious assault ships, and the recent establishment of a rotary wing group within the ROK Marine Corps, or ROKMC, as this service develops its amphibious capabilities.


South Korean Marines during a training exercise.

“We see [South Korea] now as a net provider of security not only on the peninsula but across the region, ”the anonymous senior defense official said. Recount
Voice of America. This means that the two countries “will seek ways to coordinate our defense cooperation in the region, and in particular capacity building across the region”.

“The ROK-US alliance is evolving,” South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook said. “The strength of such a large alliance will support efforts to denuclearize and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, and will also contribute to a stable security environment in Northeast Asia.

US Air Force / Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld

US Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force F-16s demonstrate ‘elephant walking’ as they roll down a runway during exercise at the air base of Kunsan, Republic of Korea, in March 2012.

In fact, the high-end but relatively small and highly mobile types of forces typically deployed by South Korea might lend themselves particularly well to new types of American war doctrine in preparation for a potential future conflict in the Asia-Pacific. In particular, the US Marine Corps recently unveiled its “alternate forcesConcept that envisions small forces that would respond to Chinese aggression from the “gray area” actions that fall below the threshold of total combat but which could encompass a range of activities, including cyber attacks, assassinations or occupation by unofficial militias.

US Marine Corps / Sgt. Briauna birl

The United States Marine Corps, Republic of Korea Marine Corps, New Zealand Army and Australian Army conduct amphibious assault training at Doksukri Beach, South Korea, on 12 March 2016, during exercise Ssang Yong 16.

The United States Marine Corps describes “reinforcement forces” as “weak signature, mobile, relatively simple to maintain and maintain forces designed to operate on the competitive continuum in a contested area such as the cutting edge of maritime defense in depth in order to intentionally disrupt the plans of a potential or actual adversary.

The South Korean military is already very familiar with certain types of “gray area” tactics that could be deployed by China while remaining just below the level of full-scale conflict. Seoul, for its part, has long faced the threat of North Korea’s huge special operations component expected to wage an unconventional war, including being secretly inserted into South Korean territory by biplane transports. Year-2, miniature submarines and other secret craft, and other means.


North Korean paratroopers jump from an An-2 biplane during an exercise.

The US-South Korean statement on China comes the same week that Suh Hoon, director of South Korea’s National Security Bureau, visits China to discuss regional issues. This reflects the difficult balance Seoul has traditionally played as it seeks to continue a working diplomatic relationship with Beijing while cooperating closely with the United States on defense matters. It also remains to be seen how Beijing will react to this new South Korean posture and whether it will seek to engage with Seoul.

However, signs from today’s defense ministers’ meeting, as well as the broader ramifications of the SCM, clearly indicate an ambition to see South Korea play a far-reaching military role not only to deal with the crisis. threat from the North, but also to support US policy throughout the Asia-Pacific.

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