S. Korean leaders still plan to seek wartime control of its military from U.S.
SEOUL — Korean military officials expect to discuss their desire to gain wartime control of their troops during next week’s round of alliance talks here with the United States, according to a spokesman from the Korean Ministry of National Defense.
The talks are to begin Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to develop the Security Policy Initiative. The initiative is a plan to shrink the U.S. presence on the peninsula while creating a more flexible and technological military as a deterrent to North Korea, South Korean officials have said.
Both countries have agreed to major parts of the reduction of U.S. military strength here, namely reducing U.S. troop numbers to about 25,000 and moving most of those troops from the North Korean border and Seoul area to the central part of the peninsula.
In recent months, some Korean officials have talked openly about wanting to retain control of their military should war break out.
Currently, the Combined Forces Command — headed by a four-star U.S. Army general — would assume military control of South Korea in such a crisis. A change in control would come at the request of the Korean government, according to current agreements.
In October, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun talked about Korea’s five-year plan to bolster its abilities to command during wartime.
That same month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his Korean counterpart, Yoon Kwang-Ung, met in Korea and agreed to “appropriately accelerate discussions on command relations and wartime operational control,” according to a joint statement from both men.
On Tuesday, Anh Kwang Chan, deputy minister for policy for Korea’s Defense Ministry, and Richard Lawless, the U.S. Defense Department undersecretary for Asia-Pacific affairs, will head the alliance talks. Other issues will include mission transfers between the two countries, relocation of installations and realignment of forces, according to the public affairs office for U.S. Forces Korea.