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Korea, U.S. to Discuss Transfer of Wartime Operational Control Authority

Korea, U.S. to Discuss Transfer of Wartime Operational Control Authority

Posted October. 13, 2005 07:06,   


Expectations are that Korea and the U.S. will begin discussing how Korea would assume wartime operational control authority in case of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

On October 12, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Man-soo said, “The government suggested a discussion of wartime operational control authority to the U.S. at a Security Policy Initiative (SPI) meeting between the two countries held last month,” and added that the government has internally prepared for a consultation on this matter with the U.S.

An official from the Ministry of National Defense (MND) stated, “The proposal by Korea is in step with the decision to hold peace discussions on the Korean Peninsula at the six-party talks,” and noted that the official response by the U.S. hasn’t come yet.

In honor of Soldier’s Day on October 1, President Roh Moo-hyun said in his speech, “The Korean military will transform itself into a genuine independent military tasked with maintaining security on the Korean Peninsula by exercising the authority to operate in wartime.”

With the Korean proposal, it appears highly likely that the Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will discuss the issue of transferring wartime operational control authority to Korea at the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) between the two countries to be held in Seoul on October 21.

It’s expected that if Korea gives back wartime operational control authority, the military authorities of Korea and the U.S. will establish the system in which they can exert the combined combat power in an emergency on the Korea Peninsula while retaining their own command authority. If that happens, experts forecast that the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command founded in 1978 will be dismantled or have little function, and that instead, the Wartime Operational Coordination Division will likely be formed as a permanent body.

Regarding the specific timing of the redemption, an official of the military remarked, “Korea will get back the authority only after 2010 when it can afford to independently use the sophisticated information beyond the dependence on the U.S. military for more than 90 percent of the information on North Korea.”

The official said, “Korea also can’t take lightly the advantage of using war information from the U.S. Forces in Korea in a crisis when the commander of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command exercises the authority to control the operation in wartime,” and added that Korea should discuss the transfer matter with the U.S. after sufficient research.

Korea’s operational command authority was transferred to the U.S. military on July 17 1950, right after the start of the Korean Civil War. Forty-four years later, Korea received back peacetime operational control authority on December 1, 1994, but the U.S. military still keeps wartime operational control authority.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com