What Price the Delayed Troop Control Handover?

When Seoul and Washington said they will postpone the transfer of full operational control of South Korean troops to Seoul, politicians immediately wondered what price South Korea agreed to pay for the delay. There have been calls from both sides to delay the transfer in the wake of North Korea's nuclear tests and sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan.

Both Cheong Wa Dae and the Defense Ministry deny that the U.S. extracted any price or that South Korea made any promises.

When asked if the U.S. had made any requests such as an additional dispatch of South Korean troops to Afghanistan, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security Kim Sung-hwan, said, "There was no such a thing at all. You'll see." He was speaking during a press briefing in Toronto. He also said the delay would not require drawing up an additional budget.

There had been speculation that if Seoul asked for the postponement, it would have to take on more of the cost of keeping the U.S. Forces Korea here. But the two countries have already reached agreement on this until 2013, which means that at least until then the upkeep does not become more expensive for Korea.

But the delay may increase preparation costs for Seoul because with more time to prepare, it will have to play a larger role and bear a heavier burden in the transfer.

"It'll be inevitable for us to play a larger role and pay more cost," a senior government official said on the customary condition of anonymity.

Seoul could also have to pay more toward the relocation of USFK headquarters to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which is also being delayed from late 2012 to a 2015-2016 timeframe. Seoul's cost burden for the relocation has been estimated at approximately W5.5 trillion (US$1=W1,217).

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 28, 2010 13:41 KST