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Wartime Control Transfer Set for 2012

Posted February. 26, 2007 07:23,   


South Korea and the U.S. agreed on February 24 to transfer wartime operational control to Seoul and disband the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command on April 17 in 2012.

South Korea’s forces should prepare by equipping and training against its northern neighbor over the next five years. But security concerns are rising over a possible weakening in Korea’s defense capability resulting from the dissolution of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo and United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a meeting in Washington and announced that they agreed to disestablish the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command and complete the transition to the new supporting-supported command relationship between U.S. and ROK forces by April 17, 2012.

Accordingly, the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, which was a symbol for the ROK-U.S. alliance and which played a key role as a deterrent against North Korea since its establishment in 1978, is scheduled to be dissolved after 34 years.

The two ministers will agree on a roadmap for wartime command transfer in July, verify the South Korean military’s capabilities to wage war on its own through an RSOI (Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration) exercise in March 2012, and finalize its transfer timetable through supplementary work for two weeks.

If the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command is dissolved after the wartime control transfer, the ROK and U.S. militaries will respectively establish a Korean military Joint Forces Command and a U.S. Joint Forces Headquarters in Korea (USJFTK).

Originally, the U.S. insisted on a transfer date of 2009, but accepted Korea’s claim that a transfer before 2012 would not be possible considering the transfer preparation timetable for securing high-tech defense capabilities to deter the North on its own.

A government official said, “I think that Secretary Gates, who is more flexible than former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who strongly insisted on the 2009 transfer), respected Korea’s opinion. It seems that the two sides considered concerns that if the agreement on wartime control transfer fails, another rift between ROK-U.S. relations could appear.”

However, some point out that the reason why the U.S., which insisted on a transfer time of 2009 many times up until now, changed its attitude may result from a behind-the-scenes agreement related to other issues such as the U.S. military’s sharing of defense expenses in Korea and moving U.S. military bases.

Meanwhile, Department of Defense spokesperson David Smith said, “The number of U.S. forces stationed in Korea is currently 28,000 and is scheduled to be cut to 25,000 through 2008. The number will be maintained for the foreseeable future.”

He added, “After wartime control is transferred to South Korea’s military, the U.S. forces in Korea will support South Korea’s military according to the USFK commander’s authority.