USA/South Korea — U.S., Korean Leaders to Meet in Seoul

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2010 — The defense and for­eign min­is­ters of the Unit­ed States and South Korea will meet next week to dis­cuss joint exer­cis­es between the two nations and a recent­ly announced delay in the trans­fer of oper­a­tional wartime con­trol of forces on the Kore­an penin­su­la to the South Kore­an mil­i­tary, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates will join with South Kore­an For­eign Min­is­ter Yu Myung-hwan and Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young in the first “2‑plus‑2” meet­ings in the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul on July 21, Mor­rell said.

The talks will address the full range of secu­ri­ty and alliance issues, includ­ing devel­op­ment of the new oper­a­tional con­trol trans­fer imple­men­ta­tion plan and oth­er enhance­ments to mil­i­tary readi­ness and deter­rence, Mor­rell added dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence.

South Korea already is a strong and close treaty ally, Mor­rell said, but since the unpro­voked attack and sink­ing of the South Kore­an frigate Cheo­nan in March, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma direct­ed the Defense Depart­ment to fur­ther strength­en coop­er­a­tion.

“Ever since,” Mor­rell added, “we have been engaged in high-lev­el, close con­sul­ta­tions in an effort to devise addi­tion­al ways to bol­ster alliance capa­bil­i­ties and improve region­al sta­bil­i­ty.”

Part of the 2‑plus‑2 talks will be to approve a pro­posed series of U.S.-South Kore­an com­bined mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, includ­ing new naval and air exer­cis­es in both the Sea of Japan and the Yel­low Sea.

“We are not yet ready to announce the pre­cise details of those exer­cis­es,” Mor­rell said, “but they will involve a wide range of assets and are expect­ed to be ini­ti­at­ed in the near future. They will aug­ment already planned bilat­er­al exer­cis­es.”

The exer­cis­es will be defen­sive in nature, but will send an unmis­tak­able sig­nal to North Kore­an lead­ers and “will send a clear mes­sage of deter­rence to North Korea and demon­strate our stead­fast com­mit­ment to the defense of South Korea,” he said.

The South Kore­an mil­i­tary had been sched­uled to take wartime oper­a­tional con­trol of forces on the penin­su­la in April 2012. Oba­ma and South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak agreed in Toron­to last month to delay the trans­fer to Decem­ber 2015.

“We think, from a warfight­ing con­trol per­spec­tive, that the [South Kore­an] mil­i­tary would be capa­ble of tak­ing over oper­a­tional con­trol at the orig­i­nal date,” Mor­rell said, but he added that delay­ing the process makes sense.

“By doing so, we would be able to sort of broad­en the scope of what is trans­ferred, and we would be able to bet­ter syn­chro­nize some of those trans­for­ma­tion efforts,” he explained. Offi­cials in both coun­tries will work to per­fect the South Kore­an military’s force man­age­ment, defense reform and ground oper­a­tions com­mand efforts, Mor­rell said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)