Close Chinhae Tomorrow

The U.S. Navy's base at Chinhae, Korea serves no function whatsoever. The Navy could turn out the lights and fly everyone out tomorrow and the rest of the Navy would not notice. Over 150 sailors and 155 Korean civilians go to "work" there each day, and do nothing for the Navy or the nation, other than supporting each other. One can browse through their website and find no real Navy activities. The main photo on its "mission and vision" page (below) demonstrates what goes on there -- just playing around. This is not an insult to the sailors themselves, who are stranded ashore in Korea as the result of games Admirals play.

There are no naval units stationed there, and ships rarely visit the nearby South Korean naval base. U.S. Navy ships use the larger and fully equipped U.S. Navy base at Yokosuka, Japan for their needs. They only stop at Chinhae for a rare port visit, just like dozens of other ports in the Pacific without a U.S. Navy base.

The Navy justifies this hidden resort as a "command" base, even though its Admiral commands no Navy ships or units. The 7th Fleet Admiral in Japan commands all naval forces in the region, including any naval forces around Korea.  Chinhae says it coordinates port visits to Korea and training for visiting units, but that can be accomplished by one man with a telephone and internet connection from any base in the world.

Chinhae is the result of political games by the Navy. The Korean peninsula has long been a focal point for the Pentagon, with a large U.S. Army and Air Force presence. The Navy wants a seat at the table, so it has a one-star Admiral assigned to Korea. He is outranked by a dozen Army and Air Force Generals, so over the years Admirals managed to construct their own little base far from Seoul, where a one-star Admiral has a base to "command" and can thrive as a big fish in a little pond.

As military spending doubled this past decade, the tiny 84-acre Chinhae "activity" added more family activities to quietly evolve into the Navy's only base in Korea, and now has its own DoD school. It has no ship piers, no airfield, no ship repair sailors or spare parts or warehouses, and no fuel or ammo storage facilities. It was promoted as a command base on the southern end of Korea with a new "telecommunications center" based on outdated concepts. They pretend this base would be valuable if Red invasion overran most of Korea. However, North Korean forces could advance just a few thousand yards toward Seoul before they bogged down in the fortifications while pummeled with airpower by the far superior South Korean military.

Like all American bases, Chinhae is touted as valuable should a "regional conflict" develop. This implies a highly unlikely war with China. However, Koreans have strong cultural and trading relationships with China. South Korea is likely to remain neutral, and not allow American ships to make port calls. Moreover, Korean ports are within range of Chinese attack aircraft, missiles, and coastal submarines. American ships would never enter that area to refuel, rearm, or make liberty calls if a war with China erupts. They would conduct those activities on the far side of Japan.

The U.S. Navy can close Chinhae in a few weeks since it has no real mission. The naval command can disband, since it commands nothing, or its Admiral can lay claim to an office within the main American military headquarters near Seoul, now moving to Camp Humphreys. The Navy could leave behind a liaison officer at the adjacent South Korean naval base, something it does with most other allies. Meanwhile, all the resources saved could allow our navy to build and man another warship, which is why we have a Navy.

                                                     Carlton Meyer


A Reader E-mailed:

"I graduated from the Korean Army College in Chinhae and  
lived across the street from the main gate to the US Navy base in  
1988. What a frigging waste of money. Get the Navy guys you need to  
coordinate ship visits into offices on the ROK Navy compound where  
they will actually learn how to operate with their allies  This isn't  
even hard. Chinhae was a beautiful place to live but after spending a  
lot of time with the folks over on the base, I still could never  
figure out what they were doing there and for the most part, neither  
could they."

Overseas Base Closure List