Thursday, September 4, 2014

S. Korea-U.S. joint command to remain in Seoul until OPCON transfer: sources

Good news here though this seems like a premature release.  This should have been unveiled at the Security Consultative Meeting next month. But this is good for the ROK/US Alliance and the combined war fighting capabilities if true.

But I wonder if this senior Seoul government official leaked this as a trial balloon or because he is trying to undermine the agreement.  There could have been a better combined strategic communications plan to mitigate some of the political fallout that will likely occur in the ROK.  I will not go into my usual diatribe about the command relations but at least Yonhap did not once mention USFK.  

   "The two sides have agreed to maintain the CFC in Yongsan, where it is currently located, until we regain the operational control (OPCON) from the U.S.," a senior Seoul government source said, requesting anonymity.

   The CFC, which has the command over South Korean and U.S. troops stationed here, was to be disbanded upon Seoul's OPCON transfer in December 2015, but a bilateral agreement to delay the transfer has led the CFC to remain intact.

S. Korea-U.S. joint command to remain in Seoul until OPCON transfer: sources

2014-09-04 17:37
   South Korea and the United States have agreed to make the Combined Forces Command (CFC) exempt from their plan to relocate U.S. troops until Seoul retakes wartime command of its forces from Washington, sources here said Thursday.

   Seoul and Washington had been at odds over whether to move the CFC headquarters and its affiliated forces to Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of the capital, in accordance with their 2004 agreement to move the Yongsan Garrison, the sprawling U.S. military headquarters in central Seoul, and the 2nd Infantry Division stationed north of Seoul to the southern town by the end of 2016.

   "The two sides have agreed to maintain the CFC in Yongsan, where it is currently located, until we regain the operational control (OPCON) from the U.S.," a senior Seoul government source said, requesting anonymity.

   The CFC, which has the command over South Korean and U.S. troops stationed here, was to be disbanded upon Seoul's OPCON transfer in December 2015, but a bilateral agreement to delay the transfer has led the CFC to remain intact.

   "Albeit temporarily, we, in fact, accepted the U.S. request to stay them in Seoul. The U.S. has proposed the CFC be an exception for the relocation plan, citing smooth policy coordination between the allies," the source said.

   "Though the U.S. wants to have most of its forces under the CFC stay in Yongsan, we have conveyed our position that it would not be possible. Discussions are under way about the size of the remaining forces," he added.

   Their retainment is expected to spark controversy and opposition from the public, as it will affect the South Korean government's plan to turn the vast site in central Seoul into a public park. The government itself has reiterated that the relocation plan will be pushed forward as scheduled "as a pledge to the people."

   "After the decision to delay the OPCON transfer, where to put the CFC became a matter of reality. We are now striving to find ways to meet different demands and conditions," said another government source who is well-versed in the issue.

   Denying the report, however, Seoul's defense ministry said it will "seek the best ways to strengthen the joint defense posture with the U.S. while pushing for the relocation plan as scheduled."

   South Korea handed over control of its forces to the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War to defend against invading troops from North Korea. Peacetime control of its forces was returned in 1994, and South Korea is currently scheduled to get back operational control in the event of war in December 2015.

   But last year, Seoul asked for a delay in the OPCON transfer after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, saying the security situation on the peninsula was markedly different from when the transfer was agreed upon a few years ago.

   The allies are scheduled to decide on the timeframe and conditions of the transfer by October, when the defense chiefs will hold their annual meeting in Washington. Many expect South Korea to retake it between 2020 and 2022.

   By Oh Seok-min
   SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap)
   graceoh@yna.co.kr
(END)

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