September 16, 2019 12:55
Former deputy commanders of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command have urged Cheong Wa Dae to delay the handover of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from the U.S.
Lobbies of retired generals who continue to wield some clout among older conservatives have now and then spoken out against the handover, but this was the first intervention by ex-deputy CFC commanders with some actual experience of running joint peacetime operations.
"In a meeting, we agreed on the need to reconsider a change in the CFC's operational control system and the relocation of headquarters" until North Korea denuclearizes, one ex-deputy commander told reporters. "We sent our recommendation to Cheong Wa Dae last month."
They also urged a delay of the CFC's relocation south of Seoul, which comes after the horse has effectively bolted -- in June Seoul and Washington agreed to move CFC headquarters to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province by 2021.
He added there has been no response from Cheong Wa Dae yet. The recommendation was signed by most of the 20 living veterans.
"We believe that seeking a significant change in the South Korea-U.S. military readiness system could cause a serious crisis" while the nuclear threat from North Korea remains.
"The effects of the current structure and operational control system of the CFC have been proven over the past decades as we successfully carried out missions, while effectively putting various critical situations under control," they claimed.
"The best way for effective crisis management is to put the CFC, which will carry out operations in an emergency, and Cheong Wa Dae, the top decision-making body of the country, close to each other," they added.
The old CFC headquarters is in Yongsan in central Seoul, but the government argues that modern communication methods make physical proximity unnecessary and no marathon runners will be needed to shuttle between the two offices.
The new location in Pyeongtaek is about an hour-and-a-half's drive away.
The government wants the on-again-off-again handover completed by 2022, and a recent joint South Korea-U.S. command post exercise tested Seoul's readiness to take over control of both South Korean and U.S. troops in case of a war.
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