September 17, 2014 10:23
South Korea and the U.S. hope to reach agreement in October about the date when full control of South Korean troops will be handed back to Seoul, according to a government official.
A government source said the two sides are still "fine-tuning" their views on the terms and conditions to reach agreement at the annual Security Consultative Meeting next month. They will then set a target year "but at the same time a flexible schedule" that takes the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and the preparedness of South Korean troops into account, the source added.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the transfer date should "basically be stated there, "whether it is a new fixed date or a schedule subject to change."
Seoul has been wary of stating the exact date after the handover schedule has already been delayed twice amid fresh nuclear and missile tests in North Korea. Seoul first wants to build its own air and missile defense system, which would be complete around 2021 or 2022.
But Washington wants a firm schedule so that South Korean troops have an incentive to improve their capabilities in preparation for the transfer. Ryu Je-seung, the deputy defense minister, and David Helby, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, sat down for talks in Seoul on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin met senior U.S. government officials including his U.S. counterpart Susan Rice in Washington on Monday.
They discussed a wide range of topics, including the troop control handover, the North Korean nuclear issue, and support for the U.S.' fresh war against the Islamist terror organization ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
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