Tracking Number:  127859

Title:  "US and Korea Discuss New Command." According to General Louis Menetrey, US and Korean military officials are discussing the possibility of establishing a separate ground forces command to be placed under the leadership of a Korean officer. (900208)

Date:  19900208


02/08/90 * (Editor's Note: Full texts of the testimony by Hardisty and Menetrey will appear on the February 9 Wireless File)

U.S. AND KOREA DISCUSS NEW COMMAND (550) (Article on Menetrey testimony before SASC) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. and Korean military officials are discussing the possibility of establishing a separate combined ground forces command to be placed under the leadership of a Korean officer, according to General Louis C. Menetrey, commander of the U.S. forces in Korea.

"I am not opposed to a separate ground component command commanded by a Korean officer, and we are actively discussing that issue," Menetrey told the Senate Armed Services Committee in response to questions during a hearing February 8.

He explained that if the proposal is adopted, the ground component of the Combined Forces Command, comprised of American and Korean military personnel under an American commander, would become a separate command under a Korean officer. A final decision will be made this year, he said.

Although there has been talk of putting the entire Combined Forces Command under a Korean commander, Menetrey said that idea is no longer under active consideration. "Among other things, you have the related United Nations Command and the maintenance of the armistice to consider," he said. "So, that is a more complicated issue than just the nationality of that commander."

Menetrey also noted that the Republic of Korea (ROK) is considering a reorganization of its military services to make it "a more unified kind of arrangement."

He acknowledged that the Korean press has been doing a great deal of speculation about a possible reduction of U.S. troops in Korea. Menetrey, however, would only say that U.S. officials are discussing this topic in very close consultation with the ROK government. He called the current American military presence of approximately 43,000 troops in Korea "modest," and noted that it served U.S. regional interests in addition to protecting the South from North Korean aggression.

One of North Korea's goals is to have the American troops withdrawn entirely. Menetrey was asked if a 50 percent cut in U.S. troops would encourage North Korea to cut its forces as well. Menetrey said such an outcome was unlikely and would only serve to heighten the threat from North Korea. But he added that he wasn't sure that a reduced American military presence would encourage an actual invasion from the North.

Menetrey said he saw no progress being made in easing the tensions between North and South Korea. "The real

GE 2 epf407 problem is North Korea doesn't recognize South Korea as a sovereign nation," he said. In recent weeks, North Korea has actually drawn away from the ongoing talks, he said, and there has been no movement at all in establishing confidence-building measures.

He expressed some hope that North Korea may yet modify its attitude in response to the dramatic changes occurring in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While there is as yet no evidence of change in North Korea, Menetrey said he does see evidence of fear of change in North Korea -- a sign that the word is getting through to North Korea of the democratization process taking place in the rest of the world. NNNN

File Identification:  02/08/90, EP-407
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Thematic Codes:  140; 1EA
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  127859