South Korea and the United States will hold a second round of talks this week on delaying the planned transfer of the wartime operational control of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul, the Pentagon said Monday.
In April, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama decided that the timeline for the transition of OPCON, currently slated for 2015, can be reconsidered. They agreed to continue to work to determine the “appropriate timing and conditions for the transition of OPCON.”
Under the agreement, the two sides held their first “Executive Session” on the issue between South Korea’s Deputy Defense Minister Yoo Jeh-Seung and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey on June 16-17 in Seoul.
A second round of talks will be held in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, the Pentagon said.
“The ROK Ministry of National Defense and U.S. Department of Defense will continue consultations on this issue in the lead-up to and in preparation for this year’s Security Consultative Meeting in October,” the Pentagon said, referring to the annual defense ministers’ talks between the two countries.
South Korea handed over control of its forces to the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War to defend against invading troops from North Korea. Peacetime control of its forces was returned in 1994, and South Korea is currently scheduled to get back OPCON in December 2015.
But last year, Seoul asked for a delay in the OPCON transfer after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, saying the security situation on the peninsula was markedly different from when the transfer was agreed upon a few years ago.
The two countries are basically in agreement on putting off the transfer, and the defense ministers’ meeting set for October is expected to determine by how much it should be pushed back. (Yonhap)