Südkorea — Wartime control transfer delayed

Lead­ers of South Korea and the Unit­ed States have agreed to delay Seoul’s sched­uled takeover of wartime oper­a­tional con­trol of its troops to Dec. 1, 2015, push­ing back the trans­fer date three years and sev­en months.

The deci­sion was made at a meet­ing between pres­i­dents Lee Myung-bak and Barack Oba­ma before the Group of 20 finan­cial sum­mit on June 26.

The two lead­ers also dis­cussed secu­ri­ty issues and North Korea’s recent provo­ca­tion, gov­ern­ment offi­cials said.

When the Kore­an War(1950–53) began, South Korea hand­ed over peace­time and wartime oper­a­tiona con­trol of its sol­diers to the U.S.-led Unit­ed Nations Com­mand, after which the South Korea‑U.S. Com­bined Forces Com­mand gained the author­i­ty.

In 1994, Seoul regained peace­time con­trol and the Roh Moo-hyun admin­is­tra­tion struck a deal with Wash­ing­ton in 2007 that Seoul would com­mand its troops in wartime start­ing April 17, 2012.

Seoul and Wash­ing­ton have been dis­cussing about the wartime oper­a­tional con­trol takeover issue since May last year when both sides rec­og­nized the adjust­ment of the sched­ule of the trans­fer.

The Lee admin­is­tra­tion has said an altered secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment on the Kore­an Penin­su­la made the trans­fer of author­i­ty inap­pro­pri­ate. Since the agree­ment in 2007, North Korea con­duct­ed a sec­ond nuclear test in May 25 of last year.

South Kore­an Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young and the U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates agreed in Octo­ber last year dur­ing the 41st South Korea‑U.S. Secu­ri­ty Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing that they would dis­cuss about the tran­si­tion while mon­i­tor­ing the North’s move­ment and its threats and talk over the mat­ter in the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion meet­ing.

In addi­tion, civic groups relat­ed to secu­ri­ty in South Korea have also urged the delay of the oper­a­tional con­trol. They said that the South Korea‑U.S. alliance could be weak­ened if the troop con­trol is trans­ferred as it is sched­uled. Civic groups con­cerned of secu­ri­ty vac­u­um that could be widened in case of ear­ly tran­si­tion.

Now that a new date has been cho­sen, Lee and Oba­ma agreed to order their defense pol­i­cy mak­ers to map out a new tran­si­tion plan as well.

Defense and for­eign affairs min­is­ters of the two nations will meet in July. The two pres­i­dents said they expect the meet­ing to bol­ster their alliance.

In a press brief­ing, Kim Sung-hwan, Blue House senior sec­re­tary for for­eign affairs and secu­ri­ty, said that Seoul is able to secure its own intel­li­gence gath­er­ing abil­i­ty, strate­gic com­mand and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem and pre­ci­sion bomb­ing skills by 2015. Kim added that the estab­lish­ment of the ground oper­a­tion com­mand and the relo­ca­tion of the Yongsan base to Pyeong­taek, Gyeong­gi, is slat­ed to be com­plet­ed in 2015.

Kim reject­ed some lib­er­al politi­cians’ views that Seoul was aban­don­ing its “mil­i­tary sov­er­eign­ty.” He also dis­missed spec­u­la­tion that Wash­ing­ton had request­ed some­thing in return for agree­ing with Seoul’s request.

Cur­rent­ly, South Korea is rely­ing on Amer­i­can KH-11 mil­i­tary satel­lite, U‑2 and RC-135 recon­nais­sance air­craft and Aegis-equipped war­ship in gath­er­ing intel­li­gence relat­ed to Pyongyang’s move­ment.

How­ev­er, Seoul is plan­ning to spend 100 bil­lion won ($81.4 mil­lion) to build elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse, Guid­ed Bomb Unit 28, Joint Air to Sur­face Stand­off Mis­sile and Joint Direct Attack Muni­tion by 2014.

South Korea is also plan­ning to cre­ate oper­a­tional unit that is equipped with alert radar by 2012 that could detect North Korea’s inten­tion to fire bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Defense min­is­ter Kim Tae-young had called the sched­uled tran­si­tion in pub­lic “the worst case sce­nario for the mil­i­tary” because the North could bol­ster its nuclear capa­bil­i­ty by 2012.

Min­istry of Nation­al Defense[MND], Repub­lic of Korea