December 03, 2021 12:52
The South Korean and U.S. militaries have agreed to update their wartime contingency plan for the first time in six years to respond to increasing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.
The decision, which comes after North Korea launched a battery of new missiles, was made by Defense Minister Suh Wook and his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin during the annual Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul on Thursday.
The operational plan, or OPLAN for short, consists of various contingency scenarios based on an assessment of new North Korean threats over the next couple of years.
Washington has been calling for revising and updating the current OPLAN for several years. Since 2019, Pyongyang has tested or deployed new weapons targeting South Korea and the U.S. Forces Japan, including KN-23 Iskander missiles capable of avoiding radar detection, 600-mm super-large multiple rocket launchers, hypersonic missiles, long-range cruise missiles, and submarine-launched missiles.
The joint chiefs of staff of the two countries are expected to work out the new OPLAN together over the next couple of years. The two defense chiefs also tackled the hairy issue of returning full operational control of South Korean troops in wartime to Seoul.
But they set no specific date and only agreed to conduct a full operational capability assessment during next fall's joint training. The assessment is the second part of a three-phase process to verify if a South Korean general would be capable of leading combined forces during wartime. That means President Moon Jae-in's cherished ambition to transfer control during his tenure has been finally scuppered.
They also agreed to complete the epically drawn-out relocation of Combined Forces Command from Yongsan in Seoul to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province by next year. The final phase of relocation will begin around June so that the old site in the heart of Seoul can be returned to South Korea.
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