Revitalising Korea’s United Nations Command

Author: Anthony V Rinna, Sino-NK Overshadowed by the glaring stalemate between Seoul and Washington over defence cost-sharing, the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) in South Korea is now receiving renewed attention. ‘Revitalising’ the UNC could provide advantages, but would also raise political complications. There are concerns over the implications a revitalisation of the […]

Revitalising Korea’s United Nations Command

Author: Anthony V Rinna, Sino-NK

Overshadowed by the glaring stalemate between Seoul and Washington over defence cost-sharing, the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) in South Korea is now receiving renewed attention. ‘Revitalising’ the UNC could provide advantages, but would also raise political complications.

There are concerns over the implications a revitalisation of the UNC would have for the transfer of wartime operational control of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) to the South Korean government. Seoul and Washington have not come to an understanding on this. But one of the most crucial aspects of revitalising the UNC is defining its role in the context of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy.

In particular, the onus will be on Washington to define what role the UNC would take in a post-unification Korean Peninsula and how it fits into the US–China relationship. The UNC, despite its name, is primarily a US institution and authority over the UNC — according to UN Security Council Resolution 84 — lies in the hands of the US government.

Still, in recent years the UNC, which technically consists of the ‘sending states’ that participated as South Korean allies in the Korean War (1950–53), has been returning to its multinational roots. Former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis touted the multi-state essence of the UNC during the 2017 Shangri-La security dialogue, asserting that ‘sending states’ remain committed to preserving peace on the Korean Peninsula.

According to Vincent Brooks, previously the most senior US military officer in South Korea, the UNC could include more non-US military personnel in positions of responsibility — crucial to any revitalisation. Since 2018 there have been two non-US UNC deputy commanders: Wayne Eyre of the Canadian Army and current Deputy Commander Stuart Mayer of the Royal Australian Navy.

But as it stands, United States Forces Korea (USFK) constitutes the mainstay of the UNC’s ability to uphold the 1953 inter-Korean armistice, while also comprising a major component of the CFC.

While the UNC’s origins lie in a UN resolution empowering Washington to command forces aimed at maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula, the CFC — whose main purpose is to deter North Korea from launching a conventional attack on South Korea — stems from the US–ROK Mutual Defense Treaty.

USFK, dual-purposed to serve the UNC and the CFC, includes two of the largest subdivisions within specific branches of the US armed forces — the 8th US Army and the 7th US Air Force. USFK is commanded by an Army four-star general, of which US law allows only seven in total.

By virtue of its size, USFK comprises a crucial feature in Washington’s broader Indo-Pacific strategy. US policy refers to its defence posture on the Korean Peninsula as the ‘linchpin’ of Indo-Pacific security.

The US Indo-Pacific Strategy is focussed on preventing China from re-ordering the US-led rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. It also affirms that Washington remains committed to deterring North Korean aggression against the United States and its partners, underscoring the importance of the US–ROK alliance in Washington’s Indo-Pacific policies.

USFK’s role as the mainstay of the UNC’s ability to enforce the 1953 armistice and its prominent place in broader US strategy creates a complex situation. How would a more prominent UNC articulate how it can execute its mission as a multilateral force for peace separate to wider US strategic goals?

General Robert Abrams, who currently serves as the ‘triple hatted’ commander of USFK, the CFC and the UNC, roundly denies that the push for a greater role for the UNC is related to the Indo-Pacific strategy. The UNC’s mission of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula, though beneficial to the strategy, is separate from supporting deterrence in the context of the US–ROK mutual defence posture — even if USFK serves both aspects of the US military presence in South Korea.

Given the potential for shifts in the status quo on the Korean Peninsula diminishing the need for a staggering US defence presence, the UNC will need to be clear about what role, if any, it will serve beyond the maintenance of the 1953 armistice.

In the event of Korean unification under Seoul, as Kim Sung-han and Scott Snyder argue, China calculates that the removal of a North Korean existential threat to South Korea would reduce the need for South Korea to continue hosting US troops. Under such circumstances, Beijing would likely push for the ejection of US armed forces from the Korean Peninsula.

The future of the US military presence in a reunified Korea in the context of Seoul and Washington’s bilateral alliance would need to be resolved between South Korea and the United States, even as China exerts pressure on Seoul. Yet a revitalised UNC under Washington’s responsibility would constitute a significant extra element to the interplay between Seoul, Washington and Beijing over the presence of US military forces in a post-division Korean Peninsula.

Whatever function a revitalised UNC would serve, a failure to clearly delineate the UNC’s purpose from Washington’s strategic goals risks leading to confusion and miscalculations — particularly on China’s part — over US intentions in the context of a reunified Korean Peninsula.

Anthony V Rinna is a Senior Editor and a specialist on Russian foreign policy in East Asia for the Sino-NK research group.

Source : East Asia Forum More   

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Cambodia’s Farmers Thrive as Coronavirus Border Closures Keep Out Crop Competition

Farmers say they are doubling their earnings and that the sky is the limit on produce prices.

Cambodia’s Farmers Thrive as Coronavirus Border Closures Keep Out Crop Competition

Farmers in Cambodia’s Battambang province are some of the few people in the country to benefit from efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, saying they finally have a market for their crops and can earn a living now that the border of neighboring Thailand has closed due to the pandemic.

The farmers told RFA’s Khmer Service on Thursday that they no longer have to underbid competitors selling crops from Thailand, allowing them to double the price of their produce instead of being forced to take jobs as migrant workers across the border to earn a living.

Additionally, they said, middlemen now come directly to their farms to purchase crops, meaning they no longer need to transport them to the market and hope they find a buyer.

A 40-year-old farmer from Ek Phnom district named Chim Virak said that he has been able to sell corn, cucumbers, eggplants, and watermelon from his three hectares (7.5 acres) of land at top dollar, with plenty of demand.

He said he spent around U.S. $3,000 on his initial investment but expects to turn a healthy profit this year. As soon as his crops are ready, customers come to his fields to buy produce “regardless of the price,” which he said had increased from around 500 riel (U.S. $0.12) per kilogram to 1,800 riel (U.S. $0.44) most recently.

“If prices continue this way, I think our area’s farmers will be a lot wealthier within a few years,” he said, adding that in his village, “most people are growing vegetables.”

Prior to the outbreak, Chim Virak said, his cucumbers sold for between 250 and 600 riel (U.S. $0.06 and $0.15) per kilogram—if he could sell them. As of May, cucumbers were selling for 2,000 riel (U.S. $0.49) per kilogram, and he said he can sell his produce at even higher rates if he brings it to market himself.

While in previous seasons he was struggling to break even, Chim Virak said he had already made around U.S. $7,000.

“Our farms are rotating [producing different crops multiple times a year] and currently my watermelon is being harvested,” he said.

“In the past, we had to rely on middlemen to find buyers, but now I sell everything myself.”

Another farmer in Ek Phnom named Kim Kan said he had planted corn, watermelon, beans, and eggplant on two hectares (five acres) of land, spending about U.S. $300 of his own money and borrowing the same amount from a microfinance lender.

He said he is also making about twice as much as last year, with around U.S. $150 in profit.

“We are very happy that we are having such good business,” he said.

“Farmers have never seen this kind of price hike. Since the outbreak, buyers come straight to us. We don’t have any difficulty finding a market. Buyers are competing to purchase our crops.”

Thriving community

Kim Kan said said his community consists of 60 families farming on 120 hectares (300 acres) of land.

Despite their success, he said the farmers still lack an efficient water supply for their land and have spent “a lot of money” transporting water from a source about one kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) away to irrigate their crops. He and others urged the local government to build an irrigation ditch for them.

Ek Phnom district governor Mel Sophal told RFA that provincial authorities are working to build his constituents, who comprise around 160 farming families, a nine-kilometer (5.6-mile) irrigation system at a cost of around 400 million riel (U.S. $97,000).

“We want to make the area a ‘green zone,’ regardless of whether it is the dry or rainy season,” he said.

Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community president Theng Savoeun said local farmers are thriving because the closure of the country’s borders with Thailand and Vietnam has prevented retailers from flooding the market with imported vegetables.

He urged the government to put measures into place that continue to protect farmers from the price impacts of crop imports.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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