Defense Minister Jeong kyeong-doo expressed gratitude to the United Nations Command Friday for its decadeslong commitment to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, as the command marked the 70th anniversary of its foundation.
The US-led UNC was established on July 24, 1950, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 84, just a month after the outbreak of the Korean War. It is the unified command structure for the multinational military forces supporting South Korea.
The Armistice Agreement was signed to halt the war on July 27, 1953, and UNC has since been in charge of implementing the agreement.
"UNC has made profound contributions to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the development of the Republic of Korea," Jeong said in a message sent to UNC Commander Gen. Robert Abrams.
"South Korea will continue to respect the role and function of the UNC following the transition of wartime operational control," the minister said, asking for its continued commitment to the maintenance of the Armistice and peace on the peninsula.
There has been speculation about possible changes of UNC's role after the envisioned transfer of the wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul. The two sides are eyeing around 2022 as a target date, though no specific timeframe is set as the transfer is supposed to take place after the right security conditions are met.
After the transfer, a South Korean general is supposed to command the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command, with a US general playing supportive roles, which is bound to reduce the US' control over South Korean troops in contingencies.
Some have claimed that the US is trying to maintain its influence over the Korean Peninsula through UNC, pointing to its diverse "revitalization" campaigns to strengthen its role and voices.
But officials dismissed such speculation, saying that UNC will maintain its role as the enforcer of the Armistice, which has nothing to do with the OPCON transition.
Meanwhile, UNC plans to hold a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement on Monday at the truce village of Panmunjom.
The exact location is yet to be set, after South Korea's unification ministry rejected UNC's request to use the Freedom House building inside Panmunjom, citing new coronavirus situations and inter-Korean tensions.
In addition, the Seoul government is scheduled to hold a separate ceremony in Seoul, which is expected to bring together 200 officials and Korean War veterans, including Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun and Abrams, according to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. (Yonhap)