July 22, 2013 11:13
Seoul and Washington plan to start discussions at the end of this month on whether once again to postpone the transfer of full operational control of Korean troops to Seoul.
A government source here on Friday said discussions about delaying the handover will take place during the two-day Integrated Defense Dialogue in Seoul starting July 30.
The handover, already once postponed from 2012, is scheduled for 2015 and spells the end for Combined Forces Command under U.S. leadership.
Discussions will focus on the latest threats posed by North Korea and the capability of the South Korea's military to handle full operational control of its forces in wartime.
Representing Seoul will be Deputy Defense Minister Lim Kwan-bin, while the U.S. side will be represented by Pentagon officials David Helvey and Brad Roberts.
Seoul and Washington agreed in February 2007 to hand back full troop control to Seoul by April 17, 2012, but former president Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in 2010 to postpone the handover to Dec. 1, 2015.
Seoul officials are optimistic that Washington will accept the request for another postponement, but the process nevertheless will not be easy.
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent response to the Senate Armed Services Committee said he supports the handover of troop control as scheduled and deemed the timeframe "appropriate."
U.S. military officials are apparently opposed to another delay because it could clash with planned budget cuts. Under the new plan, Washington would hand over troop control and provide naval and air support in the event of a war. But if the U.S. maintains wartime control of South Korea's military beyond 2015, Washington could demand Seoul shoulder a larger portion of the upkeep of American troops here.
Also, many military experts in South Korea are opposed to delaying the handover of troop control again.
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