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(2nd LD) Allies run special monthly dialogue on OPCON transfer

Defense 11:17 April 02, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 5-6)

SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have recently launched a special monthly dialogue between their top military officers on preparations for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), according to Seoul's defense chief.

Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo made the remarks at the start of his talks with acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in Washington on Monday (local time), where they discussed pending issues, including ongoing efforts to militarily support diplomacy with North Korea.

"In order for us to meet the first condition for the transition in acquiring critical military capabilities to the Korean military, and to perform the ROK-U.S. joint assessment of the projects that we have, our monthly special meetings between Gen. Park Han-Ki, our chairman of the joint chiefs (of staff), and Gen. Abrams," Jeong said, referring to the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea.

ROK stands for South Korea's official name: the Republic of Korea.

The launch last month of the Special Permanent Military Committee meeting appears to reflect the allies' commitment to working closely together for the conditions-based OPCON transition, after which Seoul will lead wartime operations with Washington playing a supporting role.

"It is meaningful as the South and the U.S. have instituted a dialogue channel to jointly assess the South Korean military's core capabilities so as to lay the groundwork for forging the conditions for the stable OPCON transfer," an official at Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters.

Following the talks between the defense chiefs, the two sides stressed that they are committed to closely cooperating to expedite the fulfillment of conditions needed for the OPCON transition, including the South Korean military's acquisition of critical military capabilities.

This summer, the allies plan to test Seoul's initial operational capability (IOC) required for the OPCON transfer. Following the IOC certification, they are expected to verify Seoul's full operational and mission capabilities in the following years.

"The two sides also agreed to work toward IOC certification of a ROK-led combined defense posture in 2019 and committed to stay in close consultation," Seoul's defense ministry and the Pentagon said.

During a meeting with reporters later, Jeong said that he and Shanahan agreed to closely cooperate to ensure the effectiveness of the summertime combined exercise, which will be staged in tandem with the IOC certification.

The minister also noted that the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to providing its military's "bridging and enduring" capabilities to defend the South even after the OPCON transition.

The commitment refers to Washington's pledge to continue its extended deterrence, a mobilization of its full military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, in case of an attack on its ally, and to back up Seoul's efforts to secure full capacity for the OPCON exercise, a Seoul official explained.

"In a fast-changing security environment, the two sides affirmed that the South Korea-U.S. alliance is more robust than at any time and agreed to closely cooperate to mutually complement the alliance relationship through concerted efforts," Jeong told reporters.

He also said that the two sides renewed their commitment to militarily support diplomacy for the complete denuclearization and the establishment of lasting peace on the peninsula while maintaining an "unwavering" readiness posture.

South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo speaks during a meeting with reporters in Washington on April 1, 2019. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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