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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.
Allegiance Flag of the United Nations.svg United Nations
(position of the United States)
US flag 48 stars.svg United States
(position of the United Nations)[lower-alpha 1]
Service history
Active 1957 (1957)
Role Liaison, Protocol
Size 4
Part of United Nations Command
Colors      United Nations blue
Commanders Air Force Ensign of Australia Gp. Cpt. Adam Williams[1][2]
Royal Australian Air ForceAir Force Ensign of Canada Maj. Tammy Hiscock[1]
Royal Canadian Air ForceFlag of the United States Air Force Master Sgt. Marie Key[1]
United States Air Force
Current commander Deputy CommanderDeputy Commander}
Command Sergeant Major NCO in charge[1]NCO in charge[1]
Insignia File: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 South Korea. It is nominally 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 cover 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and Japan which provides for its self-termination "on the date by which all the United Nations forces shall be withdrawn from Japan". As of 2018, UN Command-Rear had a strength of four personnel.



The Korean War broke out in 1950, following which the United Nations Security Council authorized armed intervention on the side of South Korea.[3] According to the United States, it 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]

Formation of UN Command-RearEdit

Raising the flags in Japan

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.

"... [the United Nations] 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."

Active hostilities concluded in 1953 and, in 1957, the UN Command relocated from Japan to South Korea.[4][5] 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.[6][7] 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.[8][lower-alpha 2] Specifically, Article 15 of the 1954 Status of Forces Agreement specifies:

This Agreement and agreed revisions thereof shall terminate on the date by which all the United Nations forces shall be withdrawn from Japan ...

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".[8] 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]".[10]

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".[11] 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.[11] From 1978 until at least 1987, the Philippines provided an officer to lead UN Command Rear.[11] Since 2010, Australia has traditionally made an officer available to the United States to be placed in command of UN Command-Rear.[8][12]

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

Status of the UN Command and UNC-RearEdit

Status according to the United StatesEdit

The United States maintains that the United Nations Command, to which United Nations Command-Rear answers, is a military organization of the United Nations.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[16]

Status according to the United NationsEdit

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.[16] Narushige Michishita of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies has explained that "United Nations Command and UNC-Rear Command is basically US organizations. They are virtually activated under the US law."[17]

Status according to North KoreaEdit

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".[18] 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".[14]



According to the Australian Defence Force Journal, UNC-R performs "certain administrative, support and liaison functions of a diplomatic type".[11] Specifically, 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.[10] In practice, however, all facilities are under the operational control of the United States.[19]

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.[9] Under the SOFA agreement, the movement of signatory state military forces into Japan can occur with or without Japanese approval.[9] 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"[6] in which case military forces can enter Japan without advance notification being given to the Japanese government.[6][9]

In 2014 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for greater Japanese input into the operational use of US Forces Japan.[20] In response, according to the Chosun Ilbo, the United States indicated that emergency deployment of U.S. forces could occur "automatically" and that "Tokyo would not have a say in the matter".[20] The Chosun Ilbo noted that U.S. facilities in Japan are under UN Command-Rear and "thus there is no basis for Japan to meddle".[20]


As of 2007, United Nations Command-Rear had a strength of four personnel.[21]

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.[22]



See alsoEdit


  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.
  2. In addition to the United States acting as the "Unified Command", the SOFA initially consisted of the following sending states: Canada, France, Italy, Thailand, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Provision was made in it for additional states to accede to the agreement and be designated as sending states. As of 2011 the sending states consisted of the United States doing business as the "Unified Command", plus Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.[6][9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "United Nations Command-Rear". United States Air Force. Retrieved December 9, 2018. 
  2. "UNCR Change of Command ceremony". Stars and Stripes. January 31, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "United Nations Command". United States Forces Korea. Retrieved March 26, 2018. "The invading hordes breached the 38th parallel and rolled back the lightly-armed Republic of Korea Army constabulary forces toward their capital of Seoul. Two days later, the United Nations called on the countries of the world to unite and assist in driving the invader from the ROK. In its resolution, the UN Security Council named the United States as executive agent to implement the resolution and direct UN military operations in Korea." 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hoare, James (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea. Rowman & Littlefield. p. xxxix. ISBN 978-0810870932. 
  5. Lee, Dong-jun (March 2012). "From the Secret "Korean Minute" to the Open "Korea Clause": The United States and Japan and the Security of the Republic of Korea". p. 124. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Agreement regarding the Status of the United Nations Forces in Japan". Her Majesty's Stationery 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." 
  7. Bosack, Michael (February 1, 2018). "Relevance Despite Obscurity: Japan and UN Command". Tokyo Review. Retrieved March 26, 2018. "The UN-Japan SOFA mandates that the signatories must execute five responsibilities. First, UNC must maintain a presence in Japan, which UNC-Rear accomplishes with its headquarters at Yokota Air Base. Second, it must be a multinational force; i.e. staffed by members from multiple foreign militaries. To that end, UNC-Rear currently sources its commander from the Royal Australian Air Force and deputy from the Royal Canadian Air Force, but has also included members from Thailand, the Philippines, and other nations in the past. Third, UNC and Japan must mutually designate bases for UNC use and (fourth) those bases must fly the UN flag. Those requirements are fulfilled throughout Japan at the seven designated bases." 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Dennett, Harley (August 29, 2017). "Aussie commander stands between North Korea and Japan". The Mandarin. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 McCormack, Tony (2014). Air Power in Disaster Relief. Royal Australian Air Force. "...the Government of Japan must be notified of any movement of these forces. This is an important point because if we are undertaking a UN operation, we do not need approval from the Government of Japan. We just have to notify them that we are coming in or going through the area. To use the SOFA you must be a signatory and the SOFA must be exercised regularly." 
  10. 10.0 10.1 United Nations Command‐Rear Fact Sheet. United Nations Command-Rear. pp. 1–2. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 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.". Australian Defence Force Journal. Government of Australia. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  12. "Fourth Australian in role". Air Force. Royal Australian Air Force. February 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2019. 
  13. "UNC celebrates the 67th Anniversary of the United Nations in Japan". United States Government. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "DPRK Perspectives on Ending the Korean Armistice". Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  15. 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 978-0198268635. 
  16. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named selig
  17. Jun-suk, Yeo (December 10, 2017). "A glimpse into US forces in Japan on standby for contingencies in Korea". The Korea Herald. Retrieved December 9, 2018. 
  18. Chol, Kim Hok (2003). Distortion of US Provocation of Korean War. Foreign Languages Publishing House. pp. 14–18. 
  19. Park, Won Gon (December 2009). "The United Nations Command in Korea: past, present, and future". pp. 485–499. Digital object identifier:10.1080/10163270903298959. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "No Need to Ask Tokyo if USFJ Help Korea". Chosun Ilbo. November 18, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2018. 
  21. "Relocation of the United Nations Command (Rear) from Camp Zama to Yokota Air Base". Government of Japan. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  22. Chiasson, Roger (2018). Cape Bretoner at Large: From New Waterford to Tokyo and Beyond. FriesenPress. pp. 207–209. ISBN 978-1525512223. 

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