June 29, 2018 10:57
Defense Minister Song Young-moo and his U.S. counterpart James Mattis on Thursday agreed to speed up the transfer of full control of South Korean troops to Seoul.
In a joint statement released after their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Yongsan, Seoul, they said there has been "substantial progress" on preparations for the handover of wartime operational control.
They agreed to step up cooperation so that the conditions necessary for the transfer can be met at an early date, while taking the recent changes in the security environment on the Korean Peninsula into full consideration. The "substantial progress" seems to mean progress in the denuclearization talks with North Korea.
At the annual Security Consultative Meeting in October, the two countries will likely agree on a new deadline for the transfer and a new command structure once the U.S. is no longer in charge of both armies in wartime.
"The transfer will materialize only when the South Korean military is equipped with core capabilities, nuclear and missile threats from North Korea are removed, and the security environment on the peninsula changes in favor of the transition," a government official here said. "Denuclearization doesn't necessarily mean the immediate transfer of wartime troop control."
The two defense chiefs also agreed to continue consultations on the timing and scope of joint military exercises given progress in the North's denuclearization and the South Korean and U.S. militaries' combat readiness.
The ministry said a considerable number of joint drills will be carried out as scheduled, given that the Song-Mattis meeting focused more on maintaining combat readiness than on the suspension of drills. This suggests that small- and medium-sized drills will continue as normal and only big demonstrative exercises will be suspended.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com