[EDITORIALS]Transfer must be stoppedThe South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting and the Military Committee Meeting were held as tension escalated following the North’s nuclear test and the UN Security Council’s adoption of a sanctions resolution. These meetings were important for South Korea and the U.S., as both needed to determine their strategic response to the North’s nuclear test and the timeline for transfer of wartime operational command of the Korean military.
At the Military Committee Meeting, chairmen of the joint chiefs of the two nations ordered the commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces to produce strategies for a response to different situations that might arise from the North’s nuclear threats. Until last year, the United States only wanted the joint statement of the two countries to include an expression of the continued provision of the nuclear umbrella. That would have been enough if the North had not carried out a nuclear test. But a declaration to provide a nuclear umbrella is not good enough when the North’s military threats have been changed to nuclear tests.
Thanks to the new order, the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces will soon have concrete plans for implementing the umbrella. If North Korea threatens to wage war with its nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Korea will have a plan to prevent their use. If that plan fails, the damage from nuclear arms will be minimized and a means for retaliation will be guaranteed. If these measures can be implemented automatically, the North’s provocations will be neutralized.
Meanwhile, it was a good thing not to set the exact timeline for the transfer of wartime control. It does not make sense to talk about dismantling the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command when it is preparing measures to counter a nuclear threat.
We should stop the transfer of wartime control at least until the North’s nuclear threat is removed and a lasting peace has dawned on the Korean Peninsula. Washington has previously insisted on the transfer of wartime control, saying that the South Korean military is strong enough to deter North Korea. But the South Korean military has no independent nuclear deterrent and should not be encouraged to acquire one.
Top military officials of the two countries have already endorsed the draft schedule for transfer, but that was before the North detonated its nuclear device. We urge that the debate on the handover of wartime control be postponed until measures against the North’s nuclear threat have had time to work.