S. Korea, U.S. working for OPCON transfer in stable manner: Seoul ministry

SEOUL, South Korea and the United States have been pushing for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) in a stable manner, Seoul’s defense ministry said Thursday, amid speculation that the two sides widely differ over the issue.
During a meeting last week in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that it will take time to meet required conditions for the transition, while South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook said the two sides will work together to get prepared by meeting the conditions at an early date.
The Moon Jae-in administration hopes to retake the OPCON of its troops from Washington within his term that ends in May 2022, though the transition is not time-based but conditions-based.
“Currently, South Korea and the U.S. are working closely in accordance with plans for the conditions-based OPCON transfer,” the ministry’s deputy spokesperson Moon Hong-sik said in a regular briefing. “The two sides noted progress made in the transition plan during this year’s Security Consultative Meeting.”
According to the joint statement issued after the meeting, the two ministers “noted progress” and “discussed the way forward.”
But they failed to mention detailed schedules for a Full Operational Capability (FOC) test and a subsequent Full Mission Capability (FMC) test, which are required to check if Seoul is on course to meet the right conditions.
Seoul and Washington were supposed to conduct an FOC test this year but have been unable to do so due to the COVID-19 situation.
According to a report by local daily Donga Ilbo on Thursday, the U.S. side hinted that the OPCON transfer will be practically impossible within the Moon Jae-in administration’s term, as it will be not be possible for an FOC test to take place even next year.
“In consideration of the COVID-19 situation and security circumstances, the two countries will accelerate consultation procedures,” the Seoul ministry said in a statement. “The two sides also have close consultations on an envisioned FOC test at an early date.”
The right conditions are South Korea’s capabilities to lead the allies’ combined defense mechanism, its capacity for initial responses to the North’s nuclear and missile threats and a stable security environment on the peninsula and in the region.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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