S. Korea, U.S. agree progress was made in preparations for OPCON transfer
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Sept. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have agreed that last month's joint exercises helped make progress in preparations for Seoul to retake the wartime operational control (OPCON) of its forces from Washington, the defense ministry said Friday.
The OPCON transition was one of the agenda items for the biannual 18th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) that the two countries held via videoconferencing on Wednesday and Friday, along with North Korea and other security issues.
"The two sides agreed that the August 2020 combined command post training was a step to specify conditions to evaluate a Full Operational Capability (FOC)," the ministry said in a joint press release with the U.S.
The two countries conducted an initial operational capability (IOC) test last year and planned to move on to the FOC test this year to assess how well South Korea is prepared to retake the wartime OPCON.
But they failed to fully assess the FOC this year, as they had to scale back the summertime exercise due to the new coronavirus situation. Following the FOC test, they should carry out a Full Mission Capability (FMC) test.
The Seoul government seeks to retake the wartime OPCON before the current Moon Jae-in administration's term ends in May 2022, though the transition is not time-based but conditions-based.
During this week's talks, the two sides also discussed ways to boost their alliance to deter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and agreed to continue close cooperation, according to the ministry.
"The two sides reaffirmed the shared goal of South Korea and the U.S. for a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and the complete denuclearization of North Korea," it said.
North Korea has not taken major military actions in recent weeks amid domestic challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and damage caused by heavy downpours and typhoons.
But it has been working on a military parade to mark October's founding anniversary of the Workers' Party, which could be used to showcase new strategic weapons, such as an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
"The delegations of South Korea and the U.S. emphasized that it is important to strengthen a strong combined defense posture," the release said.
They agreed to continue high-level policy consultations, information sharing and personnel exchanges for the peace and stability of the peninsula and the surrounding Northeast Asia region.
"The two sides assessed that the latest KIDD meeting reaffirmed the strong solidarity of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and further strengthened the two countries' cooperation system," it said.
Launched in 2011, KIDD is a comprehensive defense meeting between Seoul and Washington that integrates a set of consultative mechanisms, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee and the Security Policy Initiative. The forum usually meets twice a year.
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