Hagel details U.S., South Korean wartime control agreement
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2014 – The United States and South Korea have agreed to delay the scheduled 2015 transfer of wartime operational control of allied forces on the peninsula to the government in Seoul because of an evolving security environment, including what both governments called the “intensifying” missile and nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
A joint communique issued after talks today at the Pentagon between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said the two countries decided to adopt a South Korean conditions-based proposal that would have Seoul take wartime control of allied forces when “critical ROK (South Korean) and alliance military capabilities are secured and the security environment on the Korean Peninsula and in the region is conducive to a stable operational control transition.”
Transfer of operational control
Speaking at a joint press conference after today’s 46th United States-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting, Hagel said, “While this agreement will delay the scheduled transfer of operational control, it will ensure that when the transfer does occur, Korean forces have the necessary defensive capabilities to address an intensifying North Korean threat.”
“I emphasized that the United States remains committed to using all our military capabilities, both on and off the Korean peninsula, including conventional strike, missile defense and our nuclear umbrella to ensure that our extended deterrence is credible and effective,” Hagel said. He reiterated the U.S. commitment to South Korea’s defense as well as a pledge to maintain the more than 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
The Combined Forces Command and its headquarters will remain at its current Yongsan garrison location until the transition occurs.
Combined Forces Command
Since the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953, an American general has been charged with wartime command of the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command, with a South Korean general serving as deputy. South Korea has maintained peacetime control of its 640,000 member military since 1994, but those forces would again fall under U.S. command if hostilities broke out on the peninsula.
South Korean Defense Minister Han said key to scheduling the transfer will be his government’s development of improved interoperable capabilities for responding to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threat, some of which would not be ready for deployment until 2020.
In the meantime, both governments vowed that “any North Korean aggression or military provocation is not to be tolerated” and that Washington and Seoul “would work shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate our combined resolve.”