(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 9-11)
By Chae Yun-hwan
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea, Dec. 14 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- The U.S. military launched a space force unit in South Korea on Wednesday, adding a new warfighting tool in line with its push to build "multi-domain" operational capabilities.
The creation of the U.S. Space Forces Korea, a component unit of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), came as Seoul and Washington are strengthening security coordination against increasingly complex North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
USFK Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera hosted a ceremony to mark the launch of the new unit at a hangar at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of Seoul, which is home to the U.S. 7th Air Force.
Among the attendees were U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg, South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command Deputy Commander Gen. Ahn Byung-seok and Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific.
"The activation here today of U.S. Space Forces Korea ... enhances our ability to defend the homeland, and should ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," LaCamera said during the ceremony. "Because of U.S. Space Forces Korea, the alliance is better able to execute multidomain operations in the Korean theater of operations."
Mastalir noted the unit's launch demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the broader Indo-Pacific region.
"With China as a pacing threat, the Indo-Pacific Command AOR (area of responsibility) is our top priority, and activating this command underscores our continued commitment to a free Indo-Pacific," he said.
The new component field command, led by Lt. Col. Joshua McCullion, will serve as a sub-unit to the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, which was established last month. It is one of the few Space Force units to be established outside the U.S. mainland.
"Just 48 miles north of us exists an existential threat; a threat that we must be prepared to deter, defend against, and -- if required -- defeat," McCullion said.
The new unit will provide space planning and employment expertise, as well as space command and control to the USFK commander, according to the USFK.
"One of the many mission areas the new component will focus on is missile warning operations, which provide in-theater near-real-time detection and warning of ballistic missile launches," the USFK said in a press release.
The new unit is expected to help monitor, detect and trace projectiles from the North and elsewhere in an operation likely to reinforce overall deterrence capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, observers said.
The unit's activation represents an effort by the U.S. military to secure multi-domain warfighting capabilities to cover threats from all realms, including air, land, sea, cyberspace and outer space.
It joins other components of the USFK -- the Eighth Army, the Seventh Air Force, the Naval Forces Korea, the Marine Forces Korea and the Special Operations Command Korea.
South Korea's Air Force established an integrated unit for space operations at the air base earlier this month, raising expectations for stronger space security cooperation with the U.S. military.
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