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United Nations Command-Rear

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United Nations Command-Rear
Then United Nations Command-Rear commander Group Captain Luke Stoodley of the Royal Australian Air Force pictured in 2012.
Then United Nations Command-Rear commander Group Captain Luke Stoodley of the Royal Australian Air Force pictured in 2012.
Active 1957–present
Countries Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
Allegiance United Nations
(position of United States)
 United States
(position of United Nations)[a]
Type Command staff
Role Protocol, Liaison
Size 4
Part of United Nations Command
Headquarters Yokota Air Base
Colors      United Nations blue
Anniversaries July 1, 1957 (activation)[1]
Commander Gp. Cpt. Adam Williams[2]
Royal Australian Air Force[2]
Deputy Commander Maj. Tammy Hiscock
Royal Canadian Air Force
UN Command Rear emblem.png

United Nations Command-Rear (also known as UN Command-Rear or UNC-Rear) is a rump military command headquartered in Japan, and a subordinate element of the United Nations Command. UN Command-Rear was established in 1957 as a result of the relocation of UN Command from Japan to Korea. It is – on paper – in control of the rear elements of what the United States and South Korea contend are United Nations military forces in northeast Asia.

In practice, UN Command-Rear is a legal fiction created to prevent the expiration of the 1954 Status of Forces Agreement between the United States (doing business as "the Unified Command") and Japan which provides for its self-termination "on the date by which all the United Nations forces shall be withdrawn from Japan".

UN Command-Rear has a total strength of four personnel.



According to the United States, the Korean War broke-out in 1950 after what it describes as "invading hordes"[3] from North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel of the Korean Peninsula, following which the United Nations Security Council authorized armed intervention on the side of South Korea.[3] The United States agreed to be named "executive agent" of the United Nations and, subsequently, formed a "United Nations Command".[3] The UN Command, under Douglas MacArthur and his wartime successors, oversaw military operations on the Korean Peninsula from a headquarters in Japan.[4]

The United Nations (flag pictured, left) takes the position that the UN Command is a United States organization, while the United States (flag pictured, right) takes the position that the UN Command is a United Nations organization.

Formation of UN Command-Rear and purpose[edit]

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outside UN Command headquarters in Korea in 2009.
U.S. military personnel raise the colors of the United Nations over Yokosuka Naval Base, which is notionally under the authority of the UN Command-Rear.
U.S. Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the UN Command, gives Royal Australian Air Force Gp. Cpt. Adam Williams command of the rump UN Command-Rear in 2018.

Upon the conclusion of active hostilities, the UN Command relocated from Japan to the Republic of Korea.[4] However, a 1954 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States (signed as "the Government of the United States of America acting as the Unified Command") with Japan required the United Nations Command to maintain a presence in that nation as a precondition for continued use of Japanese territory for military purposes.[5] A break in the presence of forces under UN command in Japan would cause the termination of the SOFA and allow Japan to reassert total sovereignty over its territory.[6] Specifically, Article 15 of the 1954 Status of Forces Agreement specifies:

United Nations Command-Rear was created, therefore, as a legal construct designed to ensure the treaty requirements needed for indefinite use of Japanese territory were met, or what The Mandarin has described as "a form of legal trickery".[6] UN Command-Rear, itself, describes its existence as one designed "to maintain the UN‐GOJ SOFA [United Nations-Government of Japan Status of Forces Agreement]".[7]

Upon formation of the UN Command-Rear, it was determined it should be placed under an officer who was not American so that it would not appear to be "a parochial US organisation".[8] From 1957 to 1976, Thailand supplied an officer to UN Command-Rear, following which command responsibilities were assumed by the United Kingdom for two years.[8] From 1978 until at least 1987, the Philippines provided an officer to lead UN Command Rear.[8] In recent years, Australia has traditionally made an officer available to the United States to be placed in command of UN Command-Rear.[6]

Status of the UN Command[edit]

The United States maintains that the United Nations Command, to which United Nations Command-Rear answers, is a military organization of the United Nations.[9] The United States asserts that Security Council Resolution 84 made it the "executive agent" of the United Nations in Korea and that the UN had, through that process, delegated to the United States the authority to organize and command military forces on behalf of the UN and to independently determine when peace did or did not exist in Korea.[10]

Selig S. Harrison has said the United States' reason for advancing this position instead of asserting a bilateral alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is substantially due to its desire to legally maintain perpetual access to Japanese territory, which is achieved via the existence of United Nations Command-Rear, without the requirement to seek prior Japanese approval.[11] While the 1961 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan also gives the United States access to Japanese territory, it requires prior consultation with the Japanese government before American forces can be introduced into Japan.[11]

In contrast to the United States, the United Nations Secretariat asserts that the UN "did not establish the unified command as a subsidiary organ under its control, but merely recommended the creation of such a command, specifying that it be under the authority of the United States" and that – since, in its view, the UN Command is not a UN body – only the United States can dissolve it.[11]

North Korea, for its part, claims that the United States "used the United Nations as a tool of realizing their wild ambition of world domination ... and participated in the war in the guise of the UN flag in order to hide the true colours of war-maker".[12] Pak Chol Gu of the Pyongyang-based Korean Anti-Nuclear Peace Committee has described the UN Command as a "phantom body" and has said that "since the founding of the United Nations, such a command has existed only in South Korea".[9]

Later history[edit]

In 2007, UN Command-Rear relocated from its longtime headquarters at Camp Zama to Yokota Air Base.[13]


As of 2007, United Nations Command-Rear had a strength of four personnel.[14]

United Nations Command-Rear nominally has joint authority, with the United States, over seven "UN-flagged" bases in Japan: Camp Zama, Yokota Air Base, Yokosuka Naval Base, Sasebo Naval Base, Kadena Air Base, White Beach Naval Facility, and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.[7] In practice, however, all facilities are under the operational control of the United States.[15]

UN Command-Rear is also charged with providing legal notice to Japan regarding the entrance of military forces from any of the nine SOFA co-signer states into Japanese territory, specifically, those of the United States, United Kingdom, Philippines, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Turkey, and Thailand.[16] Under the SOFA agreement, the movement of signatory state military forces into Japan can occur with or without Japanese approval.[16] However, the agreement does require that a courtesy notice be provided to the Japanese government "prior to entry" except in "cases of emergency or where security is involved"[17] in which case military forces can enter Japan without advance notification being given to the Japanese government.[16][17]

Conditions of service[edit]

According to Roger Chiasson, a former Canadian military officer who served as deputy commander of UN Command-Rear, his duties were "anything but onerous" and allowed him to live "a life of great privilege" during his assignment as second-in-command of the four-person unit, including access to various United States government-owned golf courses, stores, and a private hotel in downtown Tokyo.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whether the United Nations Command, to which UN Command-Rear answers, operates under the authority of the United Nations or of the United States is in dispute.


  1. ^ Perry, Charles. "The U.S.–Japan Alliance" (PDF). Tufts University. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "UNCR Change of Command ceremony". Stars & Stripes. January 31, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c "United Nations Command". United States Forces Korea. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Hoare, James (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea. Rowman & Littlefield. p. xxxix. ISBN 0810870932. 
  5. ^ Bosack, Michael (February 1, 2018). "Relevance Despite Obscurity: Japan and UN Command". Tokyo Review. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c Dennett, Harley (August 29, 2017). "Aussie commander stands between North Korea and Japan". The Mandarin. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  7. ^ a b United Nations Command‐Rear Fact Sheet (PDF). United Nations Command-Rear. pp. 1–2. 
  8. ^ a b c Degville, Lianne (July 1987). "United Nations Forces in Northeast Asia United Nations Command and United Nations Command (Rear) Their Missions, Command Structures and Roles in Regional Security" (PDF). Defence Force Journal. Government of Australia. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  9. ^ a b "DPRK Perspectives on Ending the Korean Armistice". Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network Policy Forum Online. Columbia University. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  10. ^ Sarooshi, Dan (1999). The United Nations and the Development of Collective Security: The Delegation by the UN Security Council of Its Chapter VII Powers. Clarendon Press. pp. 112–118. ISBN 0198268637. 
  11. ^ a b c Harrison, Selig (2009). Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement. Princeton University Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 1400824915. 
  12. ^ Chol, Kim Hok (2003). Distortion of US Provocation of Korean War (PDF). Foreign Languages Publishing House. pp. 14–18. 
  13. ^ "UNC celebrates the 67th Anniversary of the United Nations in Japan". U.S. Air Force. United States Government. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  14. ^ "Relocation of the United Nations Command (Rear) from Camp Zama to Yokota Air Base". Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Government of Japan. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  15. ^ Park, Won Gon (December 2009). "The United Nations Command in Korea: past, present, and future". Korean Journal of Defense Analysis. 21 (4): 485–499. doi:10.1080/10163270903298959. 
  16. ^ a b c McCormack, Tony (2014). Air Power in Disaster Relief (PDF). Royal Australian Air Force. 
  17. ^ a b "Agreement regarding the Status of the United Nations Forces in Japan" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her Majesty's Stationary Office. Retrieved March 26, 2018. Appropriate notification in paragraph 3 means, under normal conditions, notification prior to entry. In cases of emergency or where security is involved , notification may be given subsequently to entry. 
  18. ^ Chiasson, Roger (2018). Cape Bretoner at Large: From New Waterford to Tokyo and Beyond. FriesenPress. pp. 207–209. ISBN 1525512226. 

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