CAMP CASEY, South Korea, July 20, 2010 – With wartime operational control for forces on the Korean peninsula now scheduled to transfer to the South Korean military in December 2015, officials of both countries have time to forge a stronger, more effective alliance, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told soldiers here today.
Gates — who will participate along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in meetings with their South Korean counterparts in the South Korean capital of Seoul this week — met with about 300 soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Heavy Brigade Combat team at this post 20 miles from Korea’s demilitarized zone.
The transfer originally was scheduled for April 2012, Gates told the soldiers, but the South Korean government asked for more time. The effort – now dubbed „Strategic Alliance 2015“ – will make the relationship more robust in terms of exercises and command and control capabilities, he said.
And though he continues to believe the South Korean military is professional and capable of leading the combined defense effort, the secretary added, „I think this additional time will allow us to make the eventual transfer more wide-ranging and more synchronized, and ultimately, better for the alliance.“
Gates noted that the United States and South Korea are observing the 60th anniversary of their relationship.
„The incredible prosperity, freedom and vitality you see outside the gates of this camp and throughout [South Korea} are the result of a steep price paid in blood and treasure by both the United States and Korea and our other allies,“ Gates told the soldiers. „And although you’re far from home and not as much in the headlines as what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, I just want you to know we do appreciate your sacrifice here, but [I also want to] tell you your vigilance is exceptionally important in one of the most volatile parts of the world.“
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)