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Congress Begins Talks on Delaying Command Transfer

Posted June. 08, 2010 08:42,   


With the U.S. mulling additional measures against North Korea for the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan, the U.S. Congress has demanded that the Pentagon ponder delaying the transfer of command of wartime forces to the South.

Congress asked the Pentagon to submit a report on “under what circumstances the transfer schedule can be revised.” The transfer is scheduled for April 2012.

The Senate Committee on Armed Forces asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates May 28 to submit a report on progress in the plan on transferring the command when it passed a “bill on the approval of a defense budget bill for fiscal 2011.” The committee also urged the Pentagon to give a specific answer to under what circumstances the schedule can be adjusted.

Mentioning the use of specific items in the U.S. defense budget for next year, the bill was passed by the committee in an 18-10 vote. Since the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have no major discrepancy in their views over the command, the bill will likely clear Congress seamlessly as well.

Congress apparently discussed the command transfer in the process of approving the defense budget for next year amid public opinion that the schedule needs to be flexibly adjusted considering North Korea’s provocations, including the Cheonan sinking.

Despite arguments by certain groups urging a delay of the transfer, the Pentagon insists it will transfer the command to South Korea in 2012 as scheduled.

U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp told a hearing of the Senate committee March 25 that if Seoul requests a delay in the transfer of wartime operational command, the issue must be discussed between top officials of the two nations. He added that the handover must proceed as planned.

As Congress has specifically raised the transfer schedule issue through a bill, the matter will likely be publicly discussed in the U.S.