With a new military agreement on the defense of the Korean Peninsula in hand, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and South Korea's National Defense Minister Kim Tae-young lead two days of talks beginning Thursday that are aimed at establishing a framework for a five year-long to do list.
This year’s 42nd annual Security Consultative Meeting will focus on synchronizing the components of new U.S.-South Korean security plan, “Strategic Alliance 2015,” -- SA2015, if you’re nasty -- that was announced in September following the North Korean attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan earlier this year.
“This meeting with Minister Kim offers the opportunity to review recent joint military exercises,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, on Tuesday. “It will also reaffirm in the wake of the Cheonan sinking that we will not tolerate North Korean provocation and aggression.”
The plan was developed after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak asked President Barack Obama in June to delay the planned transfer of wartime operational control -- OPCON transfer, if you’re nasty – to Seoul. The transfer, originally scheduled for April 2012 was pushed to “late 2015”.
“We were convinced the [South Korean] military was ready,” a military official assured Stars and Stripes, speaking on background ahead of the big show. The Korean government asked the U.S. for the delay.
Beyond OPCON transfer, General Jung, Seung-Jo, deputy commander of Combined Forces Command, said the three-year extension will allow South Korea better intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and precision targeting capabilities.
“We will come up with a more powerful military,” he said, at a press conference last month.
SA2015 also calls for updated war plans and equipment, new organizational structures, and “more realistic training” based on current North Korean threats, U.S. Forces Korea's Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp said at the time.
The delegations do not get into nitty gritty details but are expected to discuss the Yongsan Relocation Program and the Land Partnership Plan that would move thousands of U.S. personnel to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, according to the military official.
The annual event alternates locations each year between Washington and Seoul.