NATIONAL

Opposition leader objects to early takeover of wartime troop control

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 29, 2017 - 13:15
  • Updated : Sept 29, 2017 - 13:15
The main opposition leader voiced his objection Friday to President Moon Jae-in's push to retake wartime operational control from the United States at an early date.

Hong Joon-pyo, the leader of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, pointed out that South Korea's independent defense capabilities are not yet sufficient to counter North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

During Thursday's ceremony to celebrate the Armed Forces Day, Moon reiterated his resolve for the early OPCON takeover, saying it will ultimately lead to a "remarkable advancement in the fundamentals and abilities of our military."

"I can't understand why (Moon) carelessly talks of the OPCON transfer when (our forces) still lack the capability to independently safeguard the nation," Hong told reporters, pointing out that the security reality does not seem to have sunken in for Moon yet.
 
Hong Joon-pyo (2nd from R), the leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, speaks during a press meeting at his party`s headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

Hong repeated the longstanding claim of conservatives that the OPCON transfer could undercut the South Korea-US alliance at a time when the pugnacious neighbor to the north continues to launch armed provocations.

The South handed over the operational control over its troops to the US-led UN commander during the 1950-53 Korean War. It retook peacetime OPCON in 1994, but wartime OPCON remains in the hands of its ally, the US

Seoul was supposed to regain wartime OPCON in 2015, but the transfer was postponed, as the allies had agreed in 2014 to a "conditions-based" handover in the wake of Pyongyang's continued nuclear and missile tests.

The OPCON transfer has long been a highly polarizing issue in South Korea.

Those in favor of it say that Seoul needs to reduce its heavy reliance on the US and strengthen its defense capabilities from the perspective of national pride.

But opponents, mostly conservatives, argue that Seoul's military leadership is not yet fully ready to confront the belligerent North and that relying on the US, the world's strongest military power, is the most cost-effective way to ensure security on the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap)