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U.S. OKs War Command Transfer By 2009

Posted August. 28, 2006 07:26,   


U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a letter in mid-August to his South Korean counterpart Yoon Kwang-ung saying that the United States would like to return the wartime operational control of South Korea`s armed forces by 2009, sources here said Sunday.

It is first time that a U.S. defense secretary has suggested 2009 as the target year for the transfer of wartime operational control.

Rumsfeld said in his letter to Yoon that it is reasonable to hand over the operational control to South Korea in 2009 considering the timing of relocating the USFK Seoul base to Pyeongtaek and the proposed dissolution of the command of U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces, an official of the defense ministry said.

However, analysts predict there will be much controversy between the two countries over the timeline of the transfer as South Korea has set 2012 as its target year for the transfer.

In the letter, Rumsfeld also called for an "equitable" sharing of defense expenditures for maintaining U.S. troops in South Korea, the ministry said in a statement.

The expression can be interpreted that South Korea should assume greater responsibilities as the defense structure will change when wartime command transfers from the existing “combined defense system” into a “joint defense system.”

Currently, Seoul contributes slightly less than 40 percent of the total budget for keeping the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

Rumsfeld reportedly delivered the letter after attending the “Tank Conference,” on August 14 (KST) in which President George W. Bush expressed support for the wartime command handover to his military commanders.

Washington initially suggested South Korea retrieve wartime command rights by October 2008 but it later changed the date to 2009 as Seoul proposed the target year of 2012, a military source said.

“Rumsfeld is reaffirming what has been already mentioned during the ROK-U.S. Security Policy Initiative meeting in July 2006 where U.S. proposed to transfer the wartime command in 2009. The two nations will closely work together to discuss the issue until the ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting in October 2006 before deciding the timetable for the transfer,” an official of the ministry said.