US Military Launches First Overseas Space Forces Unit in South Korea

Soldiers at the activation ceremony of U.S. Space Forces Korea. Source: Reuters.

By Pen Fang

The U.S. Space Forces military branch has launched its first foreign command in South Korea in response to the rise of North Korean missile tests and launches this year.

North Korea has threatened to use nuclear weapons against the United States and South Korea both, claiming to have performed tests needed for an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. According to the New York Times, North Korea has launched at least 92 ballistic and other missiles in 2022. The U.S. issued a warning in October saying that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the U.S. or its allies “will result in the end of that regime.”

According to U.S. Forces Korea, the new command “will be tasked with coordinating space operations and services such as missile warning, position navigation and timing and satellite communications within the region.”

The activation ceremony took place at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, where the unit is going to be based. Along with the proximity to North Korea, the alliance structure between the U.S. and South Korean militaries provides another reason for the chosen location. Both the United States and South Korea wish to boost security against North Korea. Furthermore, they make up the Combined Forces Command, whose goal is to maintain stability in Northeast Asia. Additionally, the unit may help the U.S. address other issues arising in Northeast Asia, namely Russia and China’s space activities, such as China’s hypersonic weapons and Russia’s test of anti-satellite technology. “The U.S. military is faster, better connected, more informed, precise and legal because of space,” U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Paul LaCamera said at the activation ceremony.

The U.S Space Forces was launched in 2019 under Donald Trump with a focus on protecting United States interests in space. Multiple other countries have also established space-based military branches, including South Korea itself—its air force established a space force recently as well, aided by the new U.S. unit’s capabilities.

Lt. Col. Joshua McCullion was selected to be the leader of U.S. Space Forces Korea. He said at the ceremony, likely referring to North Korea, “Just 48 miles north of us exists an existential threat; a threat that we must be prepared to deter, defend against, and–if required–defeat.”