S Korea, U.S. agree to postpone OPCON transfer

13:02, June 27, 2010      

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South Korea and the United States have agreed on a three-year delay of the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) until Dec. 1, 2015, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said on Sunday.

The decision was made by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in a bilateral summit in Toronto, Cadana Saturday afternoon on the sidelines of the ongoing G20 summit, the Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.

During the two-way summit, the two leaders discussed the timing of the OPCON transfer, originally scheduled for April 2012, and decided to delay it until the end of 2015 considering changes in the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the statement said.

The two presidents also ordered their defense ministers to carry out related preparations for the delayed transfer, it added.

The U.S.-led U.N. Command captured the operational control of South Korean military forces in 1950 when the Korean War erupted. South Korea took back the peacetime control of its 650,000-strong forces in 1994 but the wartime operational control still remains in the hands of the U.S. commander in South Korea.

Seoul officially requested regaining the OPCON in September 2005. The two sides had reached an agreement in 2007 that Washington will transfer the OPCON to Seoul on April, 17, 2012.

According to Kim Sung-hwan, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, the two governments have held under- the-table discussions on delaying the transfer as security concerns are mounting in South Korea after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its second nuclear test in May 2009, and a South Korean warship went down in March this year.

The 1,200-ton South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, with 104 crew members on board, sank into waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula on March 26, killing 46 sailors. South Korea's investigation said the warship was torpedoed by the DPRK, and referred the case to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). But the DPRK denied its involvement, and also asked the UNSC to act to help find the truth of the incident.

During the bilateral summit, the two presidents also discussed the follow-up situation of the Cheonan incident, and reached a consensus on strengthening joint response to the DPRK and continuing close cooperation in seeking punishment against the DPRK at the UNSC.

The two leaders agreed to further deepen their alliance relation between the two countries, and make more efforts to push forward the ratification of the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

Source: Xinhua


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