May 14, 2018 12:05
Full operational control of South Korean troops will be handed over from the U.S. to Seoul by 2023, when the country's defense reform program is complete, Defense Minister Song Young-moo said last Friday.
Back in October 2014, the two allies agreed the handover will only take place on condition that South Korea is in a better position to handle its own defense, but they scrapped the specific date when wartime operational control will be in South Korean hands.
Currently South Korean troops would be commanded by the U.S. Forces Korea in a war, a leftover from the post-Korean War arrangement. Under the new arrangement U.S. and South Korean forces would be under a joint command headed by a South Korean officer.
The announcement comes amid a thaw in relations with North Korea and hopes that Pyongyang can be persuaded to give up its nuclear program.
President Moon Jae-in on the campaign trail pledged to complete the handover within his term of office. But the handover still depends on South Korean forces actually being capable of conducting massive operations on their own and having the necessary equipment to repel a missile attack.
The Defense Ministry spends about W43 trillion a year on defense to maintain the armed forces but will seek W50 trillion next year, Song added (US$1=W1,069).
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