|Closed-door negotiations may push OPCON transfer to 2015|
|: Diplomatic sources say S.Korea and the U.S. discussed an OPCON transfer delay, but will not go public with the plans until Saturday’s summit|
Posted on : Jun.26, 2010 Modified on : Jun.26,2010
Multiple diplomatic sources involved with South Korea-U.S. relations said Friday that they understand that through closed-door contacts over time, the South Korean and U.S. governments have virtually reached an agreement to postpone the transfer of wartime operational control, which was initially scheduled for April 17, 2012, three years to 2015.
“U.S. forces in Japan, which are linked to U.S. forces in South Korea, are scheduled to complete their redeployment by October 2015, and from a purely military technology perspective, even if the transfer of operational control is delayed to October 2015, the United States would not have to make any changes to its global military strategy,” said a government official. “It seems predictions that the move of U.S. bases to Pyeongtaek will be complete by around 2015 have been factored in as well.”
There are many, however, who predict that during the Toronto summit, no concrete mention of the timing of the delay will be made; rather, after the two leaders have expressed a direction in principle, the details will be worked out through follow-up negotiations between South Korean and U.S. military officials.
The South Korean and U.S. governments have until recently repeatedly said that the transfer would proceed as scheduled, but in fact, there have reportedly been under-the-table negotiations on the issue of delaying the transfer since last year. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told local and foreign journalists Thursday that the government began to recognize changes in the situation when North Korea conducted its second nuclear test (on May 25, 2009). The under-the-table negotiations reportedly began in earnest last December, when a key figure in Cheong Wa Dae’s office of the senior secretary for foreign affairs secretly visited the United States, informing not even the South Korean ambassador in Washington, to meet with White House and State Department officials. The United States was reportedly negative at first regarding South Korea’s request to delay the transfer, but it began to adopt a more positive attitude towards the matter in March-April.
The problem is that the fine-tuning on a key point of contention of the alliance was conducted via high-level, secret negotiations focused on Cheong Wa Dae and the White House while virtually excluding the ministries and departments in charge of the issue in both countries. In response, Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said during an open briefing Friday that the Defense Ministry has not conducted any negotiations with the Untied States over delaying the transfer. Foreign Ministry officials have responded by saying they know nothing, and official of the South Korean embassy in Washington say they have not been ordered by Seoul to do anything regarding the issue. The U.S. Pentagon is reportedly opposed to delaying the transfer as it stands. In fact, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a press conference after the 41st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in October that he was “absolutely certain” operational command would be transferred on April 17, 2012.
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* Related article (* Informed by Rick Rozoff on June 28, 2010)
: Defense News
U.S., S. Korea Defer Command Transfer To 2015
June 27, 2010