With the agreement to turn over to South Korea all military authority
(for UN troops in South Korea, including American) by 2011, the U.S. is
shifting intelligence resources from watching North Korea to keeping an eye on
China. South Korea is not happy with this switch, which the U.S. just went
ahead and did. It means reassigning several hundred intel people, both in South
Korea and back in the United States. As far as the Americans are concerned, as
the new top dog, South Korea has to take on all the responsibilities that go
along with it, including the task of watching North Korea.
South Korea lost final say in military matters in
1950, after North Korea invaded and the United States, and the UN, came to the
rescue. The UN put the U.S. in charge. For the last thirty years, bits and
pieces of authority have been transferred to South Korea. But in three years,
South Korea will have it all, and in wartime, U.S. commanders will get their
marching orders from South Korean commanders. This is similar to situations
American forces have found themselves in when dealing with NATO operations.
South Korea has become immensely wealthy in the
past three decades, and can afford all the support and logistical
responsibilities that go along with being in charge. South Korea has been
increasing its spending on intelligence, to include high-ticket items like
Global Hawk UAVs. The U.S. still provides a lot of the spy satellite data, but
the South Koreans are now able to equip and carry electronic surveillance
operations. South Korea has also developed the best human intelligence on North
Korea, mainly because of the increasing commercial contacts in the north since
the 1990s. In this area, the South Korea have a huge edge on the Americans.
While the U.S. does not always agree with how to
interpret the intel on North Korea, they are increasingly dependent on South
Korea for the raw material. There is little choice in this area, for no one,
except possibly China, has better sources inside North Korea. So while the
South Koreans publicly complain of the lowered intensity of intel effort by the
U.S., the South Koreans cannot deny the logic behind the decision.