The Senate recently finalized plans for a new leader of U.S. military forces in South Korea. The move came in wrap-up work as lawmakers headed back to their districts for a monthlong legislative break for midterm campaigning.
Senate Republican leaders had threatened to keep their chamber in session for all of October if a deal hadn’t been reached on a host of pending judicial nominations opposed by Democrats. Fifteen such nominees were approved in the deal, the latest in a sizable wave of new judges chosen by President Trump.
The Senate also agreed on less controversial defense nominations. Without opposition, lawmakers moved ahead with plans to transfer Army Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams from the lead role at Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg to head U.S. Forces in Korea. If the general’s name sounds familiar, he is the son of retired Army Chief of Staff Creighton W. Abrams Jr., who commanded U.S. forces for four years during the Vietnam War.
Abrams will replace Gen. Vincent Brooks as the commander of U.S. Forces Korea. He takes over as a rare public display of discord between the U.S. and South Korea has raised concerns about a growing rift over efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
At the heart of the issue are fears that Seoul is moving too fast and letting its guard down by embracing North Korea despite a lack of progress in denuclearization, although the U.S. and South Korea insist they remain in agreement on the final goal. South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, revealed that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had complained about a recent inter-Korean military agreement. “It was discontent about how he was not briefed sufficiently, and he had a lot of questions,” Kyung-wha said.
The two Koreas have agreed among themselves to a series of hostility-reduction steps in and around the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. Steps taken include halting military drills, setting up a no-fly zone and beginning to remove land mines and guard posts.
Forces Command Deputy Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, has assumed command of FORSCOM until a successor for Abrams is selected. Richardson was the first female Army officer to officially hold the No. 2 position of the largest command in the U.S. Army.
Fort Bragg is often referred to as Pentagon South since Forces Command headquarters was realigned there 10 years ago. It is responsible for training and preparing active, reserve and National Guard troops to meet the requirements of combat commanders around the world.
“Richardson personifies the highest standards of the Army and our officer corps,” said Abrams as Richardson received her third star. “Throughout her distinguished career, she has led by outstanding personal example from the front – in combat and in challenging command and staff positions of great responsibility.”
Photo: Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams