Bell: OPCON transfer is safe
April 5, 2008
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell said Thursday that there are “no holes” and “no risk” to South Korea in a plan to transfer wartime control of all troops on the peninsula to South Korea’s military in four years.
“I know how to do this. This is my job,” Bell said. “We’re not going to screw this up.”
USFK will transfer wartime operational control — called OPCON — to South Korea on April 17, 2012. Bell said he has let South Korean military officials lead two of the five military exercises conducted during his two years as USFK commander.
“In every case, those Korean generals have made the right decisions at the right time, with the right application of military power,” Bell said at Sejong Hall during a breakfast sponsored by a Christian radio broadcast company at.
This summer, USFK and South Korea will hold the first of four South Korean-led military exercises scheduled before the transfer, he said. The countries will hold an additional certification exercise “to prove to ourselves and the Korean people” that South Korea is ready to run a war on its own, Bell said.
“OPCON transfer makes sense. It is the right thing to do. As military professionals, we know what to do, and we know how to do it right,” he said.
Bell’s speech comes as North Korea increases its verbal threats against the South.
The communist North has been critical of the South’s new conservative government of Lee Myung-bak. South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Thursday that North Korea said it will suspend dialogue with South Korean officials and close the inter-Korean border in retaliation for what it called Seoul’s hostility.
The threatened suspension is seen as a response to Seoul’s call Wednesday for Pyongyang to halt its hostile rhetoric and actions, according to Yonhap.
Bell said both U.S. and South Korean forces are ready to defend against an attack by North Korea.
“If for some reason deterrence should fail and North Korea should attack the Republic of Korea, alliance forces will quickly and decisively defeat the enemy, and we will defeat the fighting on our terms,” Bell said.
The general also said South Korea supports his push to lengthen the standard one-year tour for U.S. troops in South Korea to three years.