The South Korean Ministry of National Defense confirmed Thursday that it is open to discuss South Korea-U.S. military exercises with Pyongyang. It also said it would proceed with the implementation of the September 19 military agreement by demolishing all GPs in the DMZ and allowing free movement at the Joint Security Area and finish the second stage of the transfer of the wartime operational control by the end of 2021 with the incoming Biden administration. Washington has been reluctant to conduct an evaluation of the full operation capacity (FOC) of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command, a requirement of the second stage.
In documents that outline its plans for 2021, the ministry specified that it plans to have regular defense meetings with North Korea by setting up a joint military committee. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said in his New Year’s speech on Monday that joint military drills could be discussed through a joint military committee if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un objects to them.
“We are open to discuss the issue at a joint military committee,” said a source from the defense ministry. “It will not take much time if North Korea agrees.” Not only has the committee never been formed, but it has also been considered a dead idea after a series of North Korea’s violations of the deal including the firing of coastal artilleries on Changrin Islets. The Ministry of National Defense, however, has decided to follow through with the agreement despite the lack of progress so far.
Regarding the issue of the wartime operational control transfer, the South Korean ministry also said it would engage in talks with more diverse groups including the Pentagon, Congress and think tanks. The ministry also made it clear that it would push ahead with the FOC assessment, which has been postponed due to COVID-19. However, it is said that the United States still feels unsure of the transfer citing the pandemic and the lack of training of the South Korean forces.
The ministry also mentioned that Pyongyang showcases new weapons every year at a military parade, although it did not disclose details about the North’s development of tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines, which Kim ordered at the Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea. “Missiles that are available to North Korea can be detected and intercepted by us,” said a source from the Ministry of National Defense, speaking of the new weapons revealed at Pyongyang’s recent military parade.
Kyu-Jin Shin firstname.lastname@example.org