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'Seoul to retain OPCON at early date,' defense minister says

'Seoul to retain OPCON at early date,' defense minister says

Posted October. 13, 2017 07:35,   

Updated October. 13, 2017 09:19

Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Thursday that South Korea will push for an early transfer of the wartime operational control (OPCON) over its troops from the United States. He told a National Assembly session that the OPCON transfer would serve as an opportunity for the South Korean military to secure capabilities for playing a leading role in waging war and for the Seoul-Washington alliance to develop in a mutually complementary manner.

In a related move, the Ministry of National Defense said in a report to the National Assembly that Seoul and Washington will plan to approve a plan, during their annual Security Consultative Meeting to be held in Seoul on October 27 and 28, to create a new combined command. The new command, tentatively called the “Future Combined Command,” would replace the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command after the proposed OPCON transfer and command South Korea-U.S. joint military operations. A South Korean four-star general would become the commander of the new body, while a U.S. general would serve as a deputy commander.

If the plan is formalized, the process for the OPCON transfer will likely gain momentum after follow-up consultations between the South Korean and U.S. militaries. However, some observers say that it is unclear whether the Donald Trump administration, which advocates “America First,” will accept the idea of the U.S. military being commanded by the South Korean military. The process could also be affected by opponents who claim that it is too early to pursue the OPCON transfer and the disbandment of the Combined Forces Command at a time of escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com