I wonder what U.S. President Barack H. Obama’s new defense review means for South Korea and the East Asian region.
President Barack Obama put his personal stamp on a fresh Pentagon strategy for absorbing hundreds of billions of dollars in defence budget cuts, marking a turning point in US security policy after a decade of war.
In a rare appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room, the president announced that the military will be reshaped over time, with an emphasis on countering terrorism, maintaining a nuclear deterrent, protecting the US homeland, and “deterring and defeating aggression by any potential adversary”.
Those are not new military missions, and Obama announced no new capabilities or defence initiatives. He described a US force that will retain much of its recent focus, with the exception of fighting a large-scale, prolonged conflict like the newly ended Iraq mission or the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
“As we end today’s wars and reshape our armed forces, we will ensure that our military is agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies,” Obama wrote in a preamble to the new strategy, titled Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.
The strategy hints at a reduced US military presence in Europe, and says Asia will be a bigger priority. It also emphasises improving US capabilities in the areas of cyberwarfare and missile defence.
The Economist uses words like “realistic”, “sensible”, and, by implication, doomed to failure in Congress. Accordingly, Dan Drezner offers some opinions about what America’s strategy should be, in the form of some of the most hilarious YouTube clips ever assembled in one post.
Heather Hurlburt offers answers to the questions, “Why should you care, what should you be watching for, and how will the announcement affect politics, the budget process and the security of actual Americans?”
Spencer Ackerman at least quotes a General Dempsey quote, that nonetheless prompts more puzzlement than relief.
Even as the military tilts toward the Pacific — which means stressing the Navy and the Air Force — and on spying, jamming, and surgically striking, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned against writing the Army off. “Nowhere in this document does it say we’re never going to fight land wars,” Dempsey said.
I’m optimistic about plans to remove troops from Europe, But what about South Korea and Okinawa? All I do is interpret this South Korean article in the most cost-effective way possible (via TMH).
Defense officials said Wednesday only 51 percent of the work has been completed for the preparation required in the planned transfer of wartime operational control of its armed forces (OPCON) to South Korea.
Seoul agreed in 2007 to take over OPCON from Washington by April 2012, but postponed it last year to December 2015, citing the volatile security situation and lack of military assets for independent operations.
“We are about halfway through our preparations for the transfer,” said Lim Kwan-bin, deputy defense minister for policy.
“This year will be the final year of our first phase, during which we will lay the foundation for the transfer, including the reorganization of the top command structure.”
Observers, however, say the government’s plan to complete the restructuring of its military command system by 2012 will likely hit a snag since the defense reform bill is deadlocked at the National Assembly.
The Ministry of National Defense has already failed to secure a budget of 26 billion won ($22.6 million) to install a defense communication network essential for a revamped command structure.
On one hand, there’s bipartisan support for this. OTOH, China is still a bogeyman.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, if the U.S. were forced to confront — again, I want to put in it in as concrete terms as possible — Iran on one hand and a threat from North Korea or China at the same time, it would still be possible?
LEON PANETTA: Exactly.
I mean, the best example is, if we were enmeshed in a land war in North Korea, or in the Korean Peninsula, and, suddenly, Iran decided to do something in the of Straits of Hormuz, would we have the capability to be able to confront that threat? The answer is yes.
If there were a threat somewhere else, would we have the capability to confront that? The answer is yes. We have got to be able to have sufficient capability to be able to confront more than one enemy and be able to win. That’s the key.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, both you and the president emphasized the major shift to the Asia-Pacific region.
What — what exactly does that mean? Does that mean containing China’s growing power?
LEON PANETTA: Well, the United States is a Pacific power. And we have always had a presence in the Pacific.
China is a Pacific power as well. And we recognize that. And, frankly, my view is that we need to continue to work with China, continue to build a relationship with China, because they are a power, because our economy — our economies are related, because there are other relationships that we have in that area.
We have a common interest with China in dealing with the threats that exist in the Pacific, stability of Korea, one example, the whole issue of being able to have commerce move freely through the oceans in that area, the whole issue of nuclear proliferation, the whole issue of dealing with humanitarian crises and disasters.
All of these issues in the Pacific and the possibility that any one of those could develop the kind of challenge that would demand U.S. power being invoked, that’s the reason we have got to focus an emphasis on the Pacific region.
JEFFREY BROWN: But when you call for this new emphasis or shift, what would you do now that — what would you do now that you are not able to do?
LEON PANETTA: I think the most important thing is obviously maintaining our naval presence out in the Pacific, maintaining our military presence. We have a large military presence, obviously, in South Korea.
JEFFREY BROWN: Maintaining or enhancing some of these things?
LEON PANETTA: I think some of this will be enhanced, for example, the announcement that the president made in Australia, where we will have a rotational deployment of Marines in that area.
We’re going to look for other opportunities along those lines to be able to enhance our presence, to be able to indicate that we are a Pacific power and we are there to work with the countries in that area to try to maintain the peace.
Or, is China a partner? Why do I have this nagging fear South Korea and Japan is about to assume the role Western Europe had during the Cold War?