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Allies set up joint working group on new command

The South Korean and U.S. militaries have set up a joint working group to discuss their new combined command structure to be established following Seoul’s retaking of wartime operational control slated for December 2015.

“As agreed in the Security Consultative Meeting last October, the allies have been in consultation over the future command structure,” said Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok in a regular press briefing.

“To develop the discussion, a joint working group was launched on Dec. 21.”

The current Combined Forces Command is to be dissolved following the OPCON transfer.

To replace it, the allies have been considering inheriting part of the core cooperative structure and establishing a new apparatus to maintain strong deterrence capabilities at a time when North Korea continues to remain a grave security threat.

The working-level consultation will continue until March. The final agreement over the new command structure will be made at the SCM in October this year after consultation between the allies’ chairmen of Joint Chiefs of Staff in April, Kim said.

Should there be some interim agreement over the command structure by the end of the first half of the year, it would be practiced during the allies’ summer exercise this year, Kim added.

Experts here express concern that the new command mechanism could limit Seoul’s commanding authority even after the OPCON transfer, considering that the U.S. owns major military assets including intelligence-gathering capabilities while Seoul still lacks some key operational assets.

At the working group, the South Korean side is represented by Maj. Gen. Park Chan-ju, the head of the JCS division for the new combined defense project, while the U.S. side is represented by U.S. Forces Korea’s Maj. Gen. Michael Regner.

Experts here express concern that the new command mechanism could limit Seoul’s commanding authority even after the OPCON transfer, considering that the U.S. owns major military assets including intelligence-gathering capabilities while Seoul still lacks some key operational assets.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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