Saturday, September 28, 2013

No Deadline For Talks With Korea On OPCON Transfer: Pentagon Official

Yonhap News Agency
September 28, 2013

By Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap
WASHINGTON--A senior Pentagon official said Friday there is no deadline for ongoing consultations over South Korea's request for another delay in its acceptance of operational control (OPCON) of its troops in the event of war.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will discuss the issue in next week's talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, in Seoul, the official told reporters on background.
"There is no deadline here. I don't expect any decisions (during the upcoming meeting) on this issue," he said.
Hagel is scheduled to leave for Seoul on Saturday for the annual Security Consultative Meeting between the allies.
Seoul's call for pushing back the date for the OPCON transition, now slated for December 2015, has emerged as a major alliance issue.
The Park Geun-hye administration cites increased North Korean threats as the reason for its request.
South Korea handed over its operational command to the U.S.-led U.N. troops shortly after the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War. Seoul regained peacetime OPCON in 1994.
It initially agreed to take back OPCON in time of a war in 2012, but the previous South Korean administration suggested a delay following the North's deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in 2010. Washington accepted the offer.
The Pentagon official said the U.S. will deal with Seoul's request in the spirit of alliance and in an amicable way as it did three years ago.
In the upcoming trip to the region, the official added, Hagel will also bring a message for South Korea and Japan with regard to Washington's push for stronger trilateral military cooperation.
"Yes, we will raise this. we will talk about this," he said.
The Obama administration views South Korea and Japan as linchpins of its regional security posture. It hopes to boost tripartite defense cooperation to cope with North Korea's threats and handle other security issues in the region.
Apparently presenting a setback to the push, however, relations between Seoul and Tokyo have soured in recent years amid a row over their shared history.
The official said trilateral cooperation has been relatively good on the military front despite historical and diplomatic disputes.
"The security baseline is something that we need to keep going even when times are tough on the political side," he said.
Washington contends improved political ties between the neighboring nations would help strengthen trilateral defense cooperation, he added.
This is Hagel's first trip to South Korea as Pentagon chief. He is staying four days, an unprecedentedly long stop for a defense secretary.
He is scheduled to meet President Park Geun-hye, tour the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas and preside over the U.S. Forces Korea change of command ceremony. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti is scheduled to replace Gen. James Thurman as leader of the 28,500 troops.
This year, South Korea and the U.S. celebrate the 60th anniversary of their alliance dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War.
On Wednesday, the secretary is flying to Japan for the so-called two-plus-two talks to be joined by Secretary of State John Kerry.

No comments:

Post a Comment