CFC to complete relocation outside Seoul by 2021: officials
SEOUL-- South Korea and the United States are pushing to complete the relocation of their Combined Forces Command (CFC) headquarters out of Seoul by 2021, defense ministry officials said Sunday.
The envisioned relocation is expected to be followed by South Korea retaking wartime operational control (OPCON) over its forces from the U.S. as the allies are eying 2022, or thereabouts, as a target date for the OPCON transfer.
In June, Seoul and Washington agreed to relocate the CFC headquarters from Seoul's Yongsan Garrison to Camp Humphreys, a sprawling U.S. military complex in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.
The two sides tentatively set the target timeframe for the relocation as 2021, with the plan to be finally approved by their defense chiefs during their planned talks later this year in Seoul, according to the officials.
As part of preparations to host the CFC, the U.S. plans to set up the so-called Operation Center at Camp Humphreys by the end of next year, they added. The center will serve as a brain of the CFC and will be connected to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii and the U.S. military base in Japan's Okinawa through the "C4I" military communications systems.
Though Seoul and Washington had initially planned to keep the headquarters in Seoul at the defense ministry compound, the U.S. military has reportedly proposed moving it to Camp Humphreys, where the U.S. Forces Korea and the U.N. Command are located, citing operational efficiency.
The relocation plan appears to be in line with the allies' push for the conditions-based OPCON transfer, which calls for a South Korean general to command the CFC with a U.S. general taking supportive roles.
With an aim to verify whether Seoul is on course to meet the conditions, the allies conducted the initial operational capability (IOC) test during their combined exercise last month.
In accordance with the agreement, made in 2004, the U.S. has been moving its military bases in Seoul and other areas to Pyeongtaek.
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), which has also been moving their bases from Yongsan in central Seoul to Camp Humphreys since 2017, will reportedly end all services in Seoul within this year to expedite the return the land to the South Korean government.
The Seoul government plans to turn the vast swathe of land into a family park.
On Friday, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae vowed to push for the early return of more than 26 U.S. military bases across the country.
Among 80 bases, 54 have been returned so far, though the process in some regions has been going slowly due partly to the handling of polluted soil.
Source: Yonhap News Agency