USFK commander calls for maintained troop presence in Korea, citing China and Russia

Posted on : 2024-03-22 16:38 KST Modified on : 2024-03-22 16:38 KST
Gen. Paul LaCamera told Congress that the US “must continue to invest” in the 28,500 service members in Korea
Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of US Forces Korea.
Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of US Forces Korea.

Gen. Paul LaCamera, the commander of US Forces Korea (USFK), expressed the need to maintain the US troop presence in Korea at current levels, underlining the force’s utility in containing China and Russia. The general appears to have stressed USFK’s strategic value as a counterweight to China and Russia given predictions that Donald Trump, assuming he serves a second term as US president, could push for downsizing USFK once again.

“To defend the ROK, we must continue to invest in the 28,500 service members, including by trilateral and multilateral exercises on and off the peninsula,” LaCamera said in a hearing at the US House Armed Services Committee in Washington on Wednesday. ROK stands for Republic of Korea, South Korea’s official name.

“We must continue to build physical, mental and spiritual readiness through operations and activities designed to compete in the gray zone with the DPRK,” LaCamera added, using an acronym for North Korea’s official name.

The “gray zone” mentioned here refers to low-level provocations that are unlikely to escalate into a full-blown war.

LaCamera also mentioned the need for the US Congress to provide ongoing support for maintaining USFK’s defense posture.

In a written statement to the committee, LaCamera explained that USFK is a significant asset for preparing for potential military action by China and Russia.

“Due to geographic proximity, there is significant potential for third party intervention and influence on the Korean Peninsula, should a crisis occur specifically from the PRC [. . .] and Russia,” the USFK commander wrote in the statement, using an acronym for China’s official name.

LaCamera also noted that the Korean Peninsula falls within the perimeter of China’s anti-access/area denial defensive strategy of holding US military forces at bay in a potential conflict.

“Both [China and Russia] are mindful that there is a premier Joint Force of 28,500+ American Servicemembers forward deployed to the ROK. These geographic realities, combined with powerful economic interests, make the ROK the linchpin of security in Northeast Asia and a treaty ally we must defend,” he went on to write.

“It is also important to acknowledge Russia’s growing presence in Northeast Asia,” LaCamera wrote, noting that North Korea had provided Russia with more than 10,000 shipping containers worth of military supplies since last September.

When asked about the intention behind North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles, LaCamera mentioned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s top priorities are “regime survivability” and “preparing to defend his nation” and said he is also “looking for sanctions relief.”

By Lee Bon-young, Washington correspondent

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