Here are some interesting remarks made by General Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of the United States Forces Korea/United Nations Command/ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, in a speech he gave at a meeting of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses on July 12, 2016. General Vincent stated: “THAAD will add area protection and increase the ability to intercept at higher altitudes than we can without THAAD and it is a part of a layered system. The continued procurement of Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3 missiles, further enhances the defensive layers.” Details of the statement of General Brooks follow.—Ed.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Yorobun, annyeong hashimnikka and good morning.
President Han Hong Jeon, let me first begin by thanking you for personally inviting me to this forum to speak this morning about our ROK-U.S. Alliance in the presence of this very distinguished audience. It’s good to see some friends that I’ve met through the years and had the privilege of serving with, and I want to thank all of you who are associated with KIDA for being present this morning and for this opportunity. I do look forward to working with KIDA in the future.
Let me start by reiterating what I have said many times over the last several month—it is just great to be back here in Korea. Although, I came here many times during the last three years as I commanded all Army forces in the Indo-Asia Pacific Region, there is no substitute for living in the Republic of Korea. In the past three months since I took command, I have been busy, and been moving around the peninsula quite a bit to see the various commands and their commanders, where they live and work.
And I will tell you that thus far I’ve conducted I think 15 battlefield circulations to see those different commands, and literally travelling from one corner of the Peninsula to the other—from up at the DMZ to down as far as Busan, and I have been very, very impressed, and frankly amazed at how the Republic of Korea has transformed over the years.
This is not only in the economic sphere, which is very evident and very clear, or in the educational sphere, or in the public health and civil society spheres, but also in the security sphere that I have seen this great transformation. What I have concluded is that I have great confidence in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea to defend actively and to fight courageously, if required.
Like any other skill, we cannot rely solely on confidence. We have to practice, to train to keep the skills sharp. We have to exercise to not only sustain the skills, but also to improve them. So that is foremost on our minds as we prepare to enter our summer exercise cycle, and the reason why we do this is to stay sharp and stay ready.
Now I would like to touch on three broad topics this morning. First, I will provide some initial thoughts about the region, about the neighborhood, and the threats we face. Then, I’ll discuss some of our recent and continuing combined efforts that have really strengthened both the Alliance and the United Nations Command. Finally, I’ll offer my views on areas where I think that we can continue to strengthen our capabilities. Then of course after that we will transition to the question and answer session following my remarks.
First, some thoughts about the region. I will begin by saying that Northeast Asia is a vital and complex part of the world, and it’s changing rapidly. It includes one-fourth of the world’s population and is responsible for one-fifth of the world’s economic output and trade. It has four of the six largest militaries and four of the leading fourteen economies in the world.
It’s accurate to say that the security and stability of North East Asia are essential to regional and global prosperity. But the region lacks a firm, mutual security architecture and mutual trust due to deeply-rooted animosities that cannot be easily set aside.
In this region we see China continuing to emerge as an economic and military power, challenging some of the norms that have shaped the post-World War II era, yet able to play a very constructive role in regional and international issues like the denuclearizing of North Korea.
Japan has moved to take a more active role in its own defense, within a framework of a firm commitment to the advancement of global security. This has been met generally with positive responses, but has not completely overcome the animosities of previous eras of imperial conquest and occupation.
Russia has limited dialog with most of the region’s countries and has been more active militarily in the region than in recent decades, including military cooperation with China and becoming more assertive in military presence to protect its strategic interests.
The Republic of Korea has become a model of success, the kind of success that can be achieved by embracing democracy, good governance, the rule of law, free trade, and the global community.
Next door, North Korea remains trapped in the past by its own decisions. The fragile economy, oppressive rule, and pursuit of advanced military capabilities that can threaten other states in Northeast Asia and beyond, all indicate that North Korea is not moving in the same direction as the rest of the region. North Korea continues to resist international pressure, and it demonstrates an enduring willingness to choose coercion over cooperation.
North Korea retains a conventional military arsenal that is the 4th largest in the world. And that is the base upon which it is adding capabilities such as special operations forces, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and cyber operations—all of which could be used asymmetrically, against populations and economic centers to create leverage.
In violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test this past January and in February conducted its fifth long-range missile launch since 2006. The pace of missile testing and demonstrations is increasing, and there have been seven launches since I took command 90 days ago.
These violations brought further sanctions and isolation upon the regime by the international community. But this has not quelled the threat. North Korea’s actions, combined with an unpredictable leader in Kim Jong-Un, represent a serious and tangible threat to the Republic of Korea and the region at large. North Korea is increasing its capabilities to attack with little to no warning.
So this is, in brief form, is the environment around us, and I remain concerned that North Korean provocations and demonstrations could lead to miscalculations and conflict, leading to instability and an erosion of the security in the region.
Let me turn to the alliances that defend the Republic of Korea and preserve the 63-year-old Armistice Agreement. I want to illustrate the state of the Alliance through a few examples.
As many of you know, I wear three different hats. The hats of three different commands on a day-to-day basis: the U.S. only joint headquarters, U.S. forces Korea; the bi-national military headquarters the Republic of Korea United States Combined Forces Command; And 66-year-old multinational headquarters, the United Nations Command. Each headquarters command is a living command and has relevance every day in preserving stability and deterring conflict.
The UN Command remains an important command, responsible for the preservation of the Armistice through enforcement of the Armistice Agreement to prevent a resumption of hostilities. And I would say enforcing the armistice is active work, as recently demonstrated by a United Nations Command Armistice enforcement action in the Han River Estuary.
For the first time, United Nations Command, with elements of the ROK Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, jointly operated under the UN flag to clear the estuary of unauthorized fishing vessels from People’s Republic of China. This operation strengthened the relationship between the United Nations Command and the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff, balancing the authorities of each to accomplish the goal. All fishermen and boats were clear of the estuary by June 17, well before the end of the fishing season. This operation will continue in the next fishing season if necessary.
The UN Command also is increasing the contributions made by sending states with more countries providing staff officers in the headquarters and also providing larger contingents to participate in exercises like the upcoming Ulchi-Freedom Guardian.
Turning to the ironclad ROK-U.S. Alliance, I would say I have been very pleased with the progress made in the military expressions of this Alliance. Within the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, we continue this combined effort beginning with the Combined Forces Command leadership. General Kim Hyun-Jip, a very seasoned and experienced army general serves as the CFC deputy commander, and a combined staff promotes cooperation between our nations on a day to day basis.
While the authority to command and control ROK forces and U.S. forces is reserved to a time of crisis, we operate at the headquarters every day in this posture to build the relationships that are necessary to control forces if called to defend the Republic of Korea and to defeat any aggression. We train as a warfighting team during two major exercises each year, Key Resolve and Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. And we utilize a realistic and defensive scenario that requires our staff to function as a combined team.
By establishing standard procedures, our Alliance is better able to respond to any real crisis on the Peninsula, and thus ensure a measured, strong, and appropriate response. We must not be deterred from conducting these exercises. They are fundamental to our ability to respond to the changing conditions of our environment that I described earlier.
I have been very pleased also with the efforts we’ve undertaken to increase our combined nature beyond the headquarters. And let me give you some examples. Let me start with Osan, where our air forces work together in a combined air operations center which commands, controls, and projects combined airpower to gain and maintain dominance in air and space. Staff combined divisions are organized to maximize sharing of strategy, plans, operations, and tactical air control elements—all of these done in a combined manner.
In Busan, a new era in combined ROK-U.S. naval operations began as the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea completed its five-year long transformation to become the only U.S. military headquarters in Korea located on a ROK base. So now our naval leaders are now able to work together in the same location, and further solidify our combined naval operations capability that over the past year supported 15 naval exercises and nearly 20 port visits as U.S. vessels rotated to and from the peninsula.
And the combined ROK-U.S. Division within Eight Army that was established last June continues to enhance its capabilities and trust through daily combined operations. Within this division, I’ve received multiple requests from the chain of command to not only greatly increase the number of ROK officers on the staff, but also to include senior enlisted soldiers who will enhance the combined leadership and coordination at all levels.
Our U.S. Marines have also enhanced our capabilities by closely working with their ROK counterparts through the annual Ssang Yong exercise and the Marine Exchange Programs. The Ssang Yong this past March was especially beneficial to our multinational, combined efforts, including not only ROK and U.S. troops, but also service members from Australia and New Zealand.
In the same manner, Seventh Air Force has conducted multiple combined and joint exercises such as Max Thunder and Buddy Wing, which integrated airpower from the ROK, Japan, and the United States.
Accompanying the conventional components, Special Operations Command-Korea brought in elements from the 1st Special Forces Group, the 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Marine Special Operations Command, and U.S. Navy Seals to ensure ready, flexible, and agile combined special operations capabilities.
So the point of all these examples is to simply highlight that the ROK-U.S. Alliance, ironclad as it is, is also the centerpiece of a broader set of relationships in the region. But there are still areas where we need work or need your help, from KIDA and others, and let me talk about those for a few minutes.
We must work to improve our ability to share information within the Alliance and beyond the Alliance to our multinational partners. Some of this is technical. Some is a matter of policy. But I can tell you that we can operate more effectively if we work through this.
We need to increase the layers of air and missile defense to counter the growing arsenal of missiles in North Korea. And the recent Alliance decision to deploy terminal high altitude air defense was a good decision toward this end.
THAAD will add area protection and increase the ability to intercept at higher altitudes than we can without THAAD and it is a part of a layered system. The continued procurement of Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3 missiles, further enhances the defensive layers. The pursuit of Surfaced-Based-at-Sea Interceptors also adds layers to the defense. And there are other capabilities that should still be considered, and evaluated, and then procured to improve the defenses in the Republic of Korea.
Let me repeat something I have said in public before in regard to the safety of the THAAD radar system—and let me tell you that I have been involved in placing four different systems in four different places in three different places over the past five years—so I am very familiar with this capability myself.
When it comes to the safety in and around the radar system, no one will be closer to that equipment than the Soldiers under my command. I would not recklessly endanger these Soldiers while they are protecting someone else, neither would I allow them to endanger anyone they are trying to protect. And I do hope that those facts continue to meet the public so that there can be an acceptance of this important defensive capability.
I would say the investment and procurement decisions being made by the Republic of Korea will significantly improve the capabilities of the alliance to deter attacks and to defeat aggression. Moreover and finally, these actions, training, organizing, modernizing, working closely together, all are part of setting the conditions for the transfer of operational control of forces within the Combined Forces Command from U.S. led, to Republic of Korea led which is our objective. And we are progressing to this in a measured and steady way.
For over 63 years, we have had success, great success in preserving the Armistice, promoting democracy, and providing security for the citizens of the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia. Today, our alliance is in good condition and is getting stronger. It continues to be the linchpin required to deter North Korean aggression and to maintain stability, and I am committed to ensuring it is successful.
Thank you very much once again for this opportunity to speak to you this morning and I look forward to your questions.