Sunday, September 29, 2013

U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Seoul For Security Talks

Yonhap News Agency
September 29, 2013


SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrived in Seoul on Sunday for an unprecedentedly long, four-day visit to the Asian ally that will include annual talks with his counterpart and a visit to the border with North Korea.
It is Hagel's first trip to South Korea since taking office in February. He is traveling together with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The main purpose of his visit is to hold the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, where key topics will include Seoul's request for a delay in its planned regaining of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from the U.S.
South Korea wants to push back the OPCON transition, slated for December 2015, citing increased threats from North Korea. Seoul handed over its operational command to the U.S.-led U.N. troops shortly after the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War and regained peacetime OPCON in 1994.
But this week's talks, set for Wednesday, are not expected to produce any deal on the issue.
Ahead of Wednesday's SCM talks, Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Dempsey, will hold their annual Military Committee Meeting on Tuesday to fine-tune the agenda for the defense ministers' talks.
Other events Hagel plans to attend while in South Korea include a visit on Monday to the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas. The trip to the border with North Korea is seen as a symbolic move underscoring the U.S. commitment to South Korea's defense.
On Tuesday, both Hagel and Dempsey are scheduled to attend a ceremony marking South Korea's Armed Forces Day. It would be the first time for the U.S. defense secretary and JCS chairman to attend an Armed Forces Day ceremony in South Korea, a senior defense ministry official said.
While in Seoul, Hagel also plans to 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 stationed in the country.

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