A senior Canadian officer will become the deputy commander of the United Nations force in Korea, Canada’s Department of National Defence said Monday.
Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre will become the first non-U.S. general officer to hold the post since the international headquarters command was created 68 years ago.
He takes up the appointment ahead of a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The United Nations Command oversees the multinational forces who fought the Korean War between 1950-53 and serves as the mechanism through which nations can be recalled should fighting erupt on the contested peninsula.
The organization has — since the late 1970s — taken a bit of a back seat since the South Koreans and the U.S. took more direct control for the defence of the country.
With rising tension over North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile tests, the UN Command (UNC) has taken on more importance.
It was the multinational vehicle chosen by Washington in January for talks among allies about to deal with Pyongyang’s escalating threats and aggressive moves.
Canada increasing contribution
National Defence, in a statement, said Canada will increase its contribution to the command from six to 15 staff officers this summer.
“I am looking forward to taking on the challenge of deputy commander – UNC Korea, and am incredibly honoured to be selected for this position,” Eyre said in a statement. “Canada is committed to maintaining peace and security on the Korean peninsula and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, for which the UNC is an important component, and I will do all I can to support this objective.”
Canada’s top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, said the larger contribution, including the appointment of Eyre, demonstrates the country is doing its part for global peace and security.
Depending on how the June 12 summit in Singapore goes, experts suggest the UNC could have a more significant role to play, particularly if there is a deal to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, or even a full-fledged peace treaty.
A paper written for the organization 38 North that provides analysis on the Korean conflict said the command could end up with an expanded mandate.
It could, in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), monitor “nuclear security and safety in a reunified or denuclearized Korea,” said a September 2017 analysis posted online.
It could also facilitate “international support, monitoring, supervision and oversight of North-South denuclearization arrangements,” wrote retired South Korean lieutenant-general In-Bum Chun.
“If there is a reduction of U.S. forces, the role of the UNC in maintaining peace would be more significant. It is also possible that a peace treaty could involve agreed principles for the transition — for example, joint efforts for securing nuclear material and infrastructure and removal of nuclear weapons — that could involve the UNC.”