In a written answer submitted to the Armed Services Committee ahead of his Senate Confirmation Hearing, Colin Kahl (picture), U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, said Washington must continue to pursue robust sanctions enforcement to mitigate the nuclear proliferation threat posed by North Korea.
Undersecretary of defense for policy is the third-most powerful position in Pentagon. Regarding the wartime operational control (OPCON) transfer, Kahl said Seoul and Washington should not take a shortcut, suggesting that the transfer should be carried out carefully according to a three-phase verification process. When asked about the conditions for the transition of OPCON, Kahl said the OPCON transition must basically strengthen the joint defense posture, adding the conditions for that are laid out in the OPCON transition plan. Kahl said, if confirmed, he will look forward to working closely with South Korea to ensure that all conditions for OPCON transition are met, stressing that Seoul and Washington should not take a shortcut on the matter.
When asked whether to adjust U.S. forces in South Korea (USFK), Kahl stressed again the basic principle of the Joe Biden administration that it puts emphasis on the value of alliance. The U.S. security promise to South Korea remains unwavering and is consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty, said Kahl, adding that the promise is not bound by the number of forces but follows the 70-year alliance based on common values and ties between peoples. But about the likelihood of the USFK being mobilized in operations outside the region, Kahl opened up the possibility by saying the U.S. must maintain operational flexibility to ensure that their forces are optimized and ready to meet emerging threats.
“If confirmed, I will work with South Korea to respond to security challenges outside the Korean Peninsula, including malicious behavior by China,” Kahl said.
Jae-Dong Yu firstname.lastname@example.org