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Allies rethink combined command relocation plan: sources

Defense 15:32 December 13, 2018

SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States are reconsidering a plan to relocate the combined command of their troops to the defense ministry compound in Seoul due to concern about operational efficiency, military sources said Thursday.

Combined Forces Command (CFC) chief Gen. Robert Abrams raised the need to rethink the plan, under which the CFC personnel will work in four different existing buildings in the compound.

He is apparently concerned that it may lower the effectiveness of joint operations and affect the allies' overall defense posture.

They have been in talks over the CFC issue in line with a broader scheme to move U.S. military bases in Seoul and north of the capital to Camp Humphreys, a sprawling U.S. military complex in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

"(Gen. Abrams) has called on (his staff) to go back to the drawing board and explore various possibilities, including the relocation to the ministry compound," a military source told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.

"As he took the helm of the command and reviewed the plan, he apparently felt the need for the reconsideration," the official added.

What the commander wants is for the relocation plan to be reviewed, not for it to be immediately canceled.

The commander, who also leads the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and U.N. Command, took office in November.

Alternative options include retaining the CFC in the current location in Yongsan, central Seoul, relocating it to Camp Humphreys or constructing a separate complex in the defense ministry.

Another source here confirmed that the two sides have been discussing the matter, factoring in work efficiency, operational capabilities and other elements related to future CFC operations.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) dismissed a news report that the original CFC relocation plan was canceled.

"The MND and the USFK have been consulting over the relocation issue," it said in a text message sent to reporters.

"The South and U.S. will make a decision on the issue in consideration of such issues as ensuring the continuation of CFC missions, strengthening the combined defense posture and setting conditions for a transition to a future combined defense system," it added.

The allies have been in talks over the future combined defense system, which will be established after Washington's transfer of wartime operational control to Seoul. Under the new structure, South Korea will lead wartime operations, with the U.S. playing a supporting role.

Gen. Robert Abrams, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, attends an alliance friendship event in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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