S. Korea, US sign documents for swift implementation of OPCON transfer

Nov 01, 2018, 09:24 am

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South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his U.S. counterpart, James Mattis, signed a document at the Pentagon on Wednesday for the immediate implementation of the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON).

By AsiaToday Washington correspondent Ha Man-joo & reporter Lee Seok-jong 

South Korea and the United States’ defense ministers signed a document at the Pentagon on Wednesday for the immediate implementation of the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON).

As a result, the two sides are expected to accelerate the OPCON handover. Some observers say the transfer will be made during the Moon Jae-in administration.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his US counterpart, James Mattis, discussed ways to enable the expeditious conditions-based OPCON transfer, to conduct Korea-US joint drills, to cooperate for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peace settlement, and to implement the September inter-Korean military agreement, at the 50th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Washington. They reached agreement over a set of key documents related to the OPCON transfer.

The four documents signed by the defense ministers are the following: A guideline on combined forces, a revised document of the Conditions-Based OPCON Transition Plan (COTP), the Memorandum for Record (MFR) on Future Command Structure, and Terms of Reference – Relationship (TOR-R) among Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff (ROK JCS), United Nations Command (UNC), and ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC).

The guideline contains clear guidelines for the presidents of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the two countries after the OPCON transfer is completed, for the direction of the US-ROK defense system and improvement of the combined defense system. 

This is meant to resolve the people’s security concerns by publicly announcing the firmness of the ROK-US alliance, according to the defense ministry. 

The guideline on combined forces is what Jeong Kyeong-doo and Joseph Dunford agreed and proposed to the then South Korean and American defense ministers when Jeong was the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the SCM, Jeong signed it by himself as a defense minister. 

The MFR includes a plan to maintain a similar structure of the current combined forces command and a plan where a South Korean four-star general will serve as the forces’ commander while a US general will by a deputy chief. 

Currently, a US general leads the allies’ combined forces while a South Korean general is a deputy commander. 

The defense ministry said the United States proposed the plan and that it allows a South Korean commander to be able to command and control ROK military more professionally than a US commander.

The two ministers agreed to discuss ways to evaluate ‘Initial Operation Capability (IOC) on Future Command Structure’ next year in order to meet conditions early for the OPCON transfer, and to maintain combined defensive strength.

In addition, they agreed to conduct alternative trainings that meet the verification condition of ‘IOC on Future Command Structure’ following the OPCON transition even if ROK-US combined military drills are delayed as the denuclearization negotiations with the North progress. 

The two ministers sought to ensure close coordination to jointly evaluate trust-building measures, including the September inter-Korean military agreement, and to contribute to the practical easing of tensions and peace settlement while maintaining the US-ROK combined military readiness.

#S. Korea #US #OPCON #transfer #combined forces command 
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