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New top commander to enhance interoperability

South Korea’s military plans to create a new top commander to coordinate operations of its armed forces as part of its efforts to enhance the interoperability among the Army, Navy and Air Force, the defense minister said Tuesday.

A four-star general will be appointed as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a group of military leaders from each branch of the armed services. The vice JCS chairman will be responsible for maximizing efficiency in military operations, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said at a parliamentary session.

“The vice JCS chairman will coordinate operations, military intelligence and support the JCS chairman,” Kim told lawmakers, adding, “Enhancing the interoperability is a barometer of an advanced military.”

The South’s military has been under growing calls to improve the interoperability of its armed forces to better respond to North Korean provocations. Last year, North Korea sank a South Korean warship and bombarded a southern border island, leaving a total of 50 people, including two civilians, killed.

The Defense Ministry had originally planned to create a so-called “Joint Forces Command” to improve the interoperability, but scrapped the plan last month because of a constitutional challenge and resistance from the Navy and Air Force.

Kim said the vice JCS chairman will also assume “limited” authority to manage military personnel.“

Under the current command structure, each chief of staff of the three branches has the power to manage their own troops. The lack of authority in personnel management for the JCS chairman has long been cited as one of the major factors hindering interoperability of the troops.

Revamping the top command structure is part of 73-point military reform measures unveiled by the Defense Ministry last month in response to increasing North Korean hostilities.

The measures call for an early introduction of spy drones and stealth fighters, and a 15 percent cut in the number of general-grade officers to make the command structure of South Korea’s 650,000-member military slimmer but more efficient. 

(Yonhap News)
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