Pentagon Willing to Be Flexible in Troop Control Handover

      February 03, 2014 11:49

      The U.S. Defense Department last Tuesday said it will let circumstances determine the timing and conditions for the transfer of the full-time operational control of South Korean troops to Seoul. The phrasing suggests South Korea made some headway in attempts to again postpone the handover now slated for December 2015.

      At a House Armed Services Committee meeting, acting Under Secretary of Defense Michael Lumpkin said, "We remain committed to a conditions-based transition of operational control."

      "Together we have developed a plan to effectively counter North Korean provocations," he added. Lumpkin's comments suggest Washington and Seoul have concluded that the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has worsened since the North's third nuclear test, making a postponement of the handover desirable.

      Task forces from the two countries believe the readiness of South Korean troops to deal with a North Korean attack is the vital deciding factor. The decision whether to postpone the handover is likely to be made at the annual Security Consultative Meeting in October.

      A bilateral defense ministers meeting in 2007 decided to hand over troop control to Seoul in April 2012, but in June 2010 the two sides postponed it until December 2015.

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