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Seoul, Washington effectively agree on delaying OPCON transfer by 6-7 years

Seoul, Washington effectively agree on delaying OPCON transfer by 6-7 years

Posted September. 16, 2014 05:22,   


South Korea and the U.S. have effectively agreed to postpone the schedule to transfer wartime operational control (OPCON) set in 2015 by six to seven years, and are holding last-minute consultations over whether to specify year of transfer in their agreement, it was reported on Monday.

According to military sources, the two countries have decided to officially announce an agreement that calls for postponement of OPCON transfer until conditions including security situation on the Korean Peninsula are fully met, at the South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting to be held in Washington next month. The two allies are also reportedly discussing detailed text and expressions to be included in the agreement.

A ranking source in the U.S. said, “We are discussing with South Korea about enlisting the necessary conditions required for OPCON transfer in the agreement, and ways to explain them.” The source also said the two nations are discussing a plan to include in the agreement the phrase “effective dual control, shared control moving forward between the two countries” in lieu of “postponement of OPCON transfer.”

The two sides are also reportedly exchanging views on gains and losses in political and security aspects that could occur if the year for OPCON transfer is specified in their agreement. This is because even though the two countries had agreed twice that OPCON be transferred from Washington to Seoul in 2012 (first) and 2015 (second), the schedule for transfer has been broken again due to Seoul’s demand, and hence they feel political burden about "defining a specific deadline."

A ranking source in Washington said, “The core element of OPCON transfer is strengthening of South Korea and U.S.’ deterrence of North Korea’s nuclear threat,” adding, “In this light, it is desirable not to define a specific deadline but to only specify conditions for transfer (in the agreement), and this is what the U.S. government wants as well.”

However, chances are high that unless they define a specific deadline in their agreement, they could face criticism that the measure could constitute indefinite delay or outright cancellation of OPCON transfer. Hence, sources in Seoul and Washington said the two sides are examining a compromising plan, which calls for specifying in the agreement a “point in time in the foreseeable future” provided that required conditions are met, instead of defining a specific deadline.