Is delaying transfer of wartime control under talks?Delay of wartime operational control transfer became an emerging issue since Sung Kim, U.S. ambassador to Seoul, said on Wednesday that “[the United States] would not transfer the wartime operational control to the South Korean military if South Korea were not prepared to take over.”
“Both governments are under discussion to evaluate whether the South Korean military will be ready in 2015 to take over the wartime control,” Kim said in a meeting.
The wartime control transfer was scheduled to take place in December 2015. But since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, concerns are raised for the planned transfer of wartime control. Under the current arrangement, the U.S. military exercises the wartime operational command over the South Korean military when a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.
Regarding consideration of delaying the transfer, South Korean government will push for the transfer as planned. In a meeting with reporters yesterday, Chun Yung-woo, the senior presidential security secretary, made clear that no one is considering the option of delaying the transfer scheduled to take place in December 2015.
Regaining wartime operational control of South Korea’s military forces from the United States will have no impact on the country’s ability to deter North Korean aggression, said Chun.
The comments come as some conservatives suggested that Washington should maintain control a little while longer following a spike in inter-Korean tensions after the North detonated its third nuclear device on Feb. 12.
He said that even if Seoul gains control, the situation will be no different than before since South Korea and the United States already agreed on several matters that can ensure military readiness and viable deterrence.
South Korea handed over both wartime and peacetime operational control of its armed forces to the United States in July 1950, a month after the North started the three-year-long Korean War. Seoul regained peacetime operational control of its forces in 1994.
Besides the operational control issue, Chun did not confirm if there were secret talks between South and North Korea late last year, but said there are many ways for direst contact to be made, including several telephone hotlines.
By Jeong Yong-soo, Yonhap [firstname.lastname@example.org]