September 18, 2017 13:00
The U.S. earlier this year slammed the brakes on returning full operational control of Korean troops to South Korea.
As part of a roadmap, the two allies agreed in 2014 to create a new joint command, headed by a South Korean military officer and a U.S. subcommander, which will replace the Combined Forces Command when full operational control of Korean troops returns to Seoul. The new command would be similar in structure to CFC, which is headed by the U.S. Forces Korea commander, and take charge of its key wartime functions.
But the USFK has asked for talks about the new command to be halted, it emerged Sunday. The U.S. has rarely agreed to subject its soldiers to the command of a foreign officer. Some pundits believe that if such a command structure is set up, Washington would no longer intervene automatically with a massive troop deployment if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.
A government source on Sunday said USFK chief Vincent Brooks "requested early this year to halt talks about crating the new command, so discussion has stopped." The source added Gen. Brooks' "in principle wants to abide by the agreement, but the entire project will have to be reconsidered since additional talks are not taking place."
Seoul views the request as a call to reconsider the post-handover command structure. President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in June on a speedy transfer of wartime operational control to Seoul. But no talks have taken place since.
South Korea and the U.S. originally agreed to return full control of its own troops to Seoul by 2015. But they revised the plan in 2014 and agreed to complete the handover once the time is ripe -- i.e. when South Korea is in a better position to handle its own defense. They set a tentative new deadline of the mid-2020s. But when Moon came to power, he presented a timeframe that falls within his five-year term.
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