The U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday backed Washington’s decision to review the timing of the transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, slated for 2015.
The bipartisan support for the decision, made at a summit between the two countries’ leaders last month, was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Seoul officials and news reports from Washington. The bill was approved unanimously by the panel and will head to the floor of the House later this month.
The envisioned delay of the OPCON transition reflects the “evolving security landscape” in the region including North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, the text reads.
The review will help ensure that the alliance is “fully prepared” against North Korea’s military threats, U.S. President Barack Obama said.
“(The OPCON handover) should be implemented in a way that strengthens the South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture and has no negative impact on our security in any way,” President Park Geun-hye told a joint news conference in Seoul.
The bill expressed “deep concern” over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as its continued provocations, which it said threatened peace and stability on the peninsula and in the broader region. It also pledged to help achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the communist state.
While reaffirming U.S. backing for a peacefully unified peninsula, it called the Seoul-Washington alliance an “anchor” and “linchpin” of stability, security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific, based on shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Pyongyang, for its part, has been intensifying criticism against the allies for their “hostile policy” highlighted during the summit.
Its state media on Thursday condemned the decision on the command transfer, billing it a “hideous, anti-people crime.”
“This is a rash act to escalate tension and accelerate an arms race on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia by entrusting the South to the U.S. as a permanent base camp and a place to wage war,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)