Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Top Commanders Of S. Korea, U.S. Discuss Security Alliance

Yonhap News Agency
September 30, 2013


By Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap
SEOUL -- Top commanders of South Korea and the United States discussed the future of their security alliance Monday as the two nations are reviewing the timing of the planned transition of wartime operational command (OPCON) to Seoul in response to a rising North Korean nuclear threat, officials here said.
Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey, held a meeting to fine-tune the agenda for the upcoming Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) slated for Wednesday, which will be dominated by the timing of the OPCON transition slated for December 2015.
Dempsey accompanied U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss the joint defense posture against North Korea and attend events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the bilateral alliance forged at the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The commanders also reviewed the customized deterrence plan against Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, which will be signed during the defense ministerial meeting, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
The written plan detailing contingency counteractions underscores the U.S. commitment to extend deterrence against the North's nuclear threat, Seoul officials said.
Analysis of recent satellite images suggest it has restarted the plutonium reactor and may have doubled its uranium enrichment capacity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Pyongyang is believed to be developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the country has repeatedly threatened nuclear attacks on the continental United States and South Korea.
"The customized deterrence plan is meaningful as it contains detailed strategies against North Korea's nuclear threat," a senior defense ministry official said.
Although the two nations have shared the general consensus to review the timing of the OPCON transfer, the defense leaders are not expected to draw a final conclusion in this upcoming meeting and continue discussions in the coming months, according to Seoul officials.
"Working officials of South Korea and the U.S. evaluated North Korea's nuclear program as a present threat, and agreed on the need to review the wartime operational control transition," a senior military official said, asking for anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media.
Aboard the U.S. military aircraft heading to Seoul on Saturday, Hagel ruled out possibilities of making a final decision at the upcoming meeting, saying, "I don't think we'll be in a position to make any final decision."
Tensions escalated between the two Koreas when Pyongyang fired a long-range rocket in December, which was deemed as a cover to test its ballistic missile technology. The communist country then conducted its third atomic test in February despite universal warnings from the international community to desist. Both actions invited additional U.N. Security Council sanctions against the impoverished nation.
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.
South Korea's latest military equipment, including missiles capable of striking North Korea, will be on display during the parade in downtown Seoul.

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