U.S., South Korea clash on handing over military control
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. and South Korean officials were still at odds over when South Korea should assume wartime control over its own military, top Defense officials said Friday.
Negotiations were expected to continue through Friday afternoon, and the two sides expected to announce a joint communique on areas of agreement Friday night, officials said.
The two sides had hoped to agree on the matter by Friday’s annual Security Consultative Meeting, Deputy Defense Undersecretary Richard Lawless told reporters early this month.
But at a news conference early Friday afternoon, Defense officials from the United States and South Korea said the issue had yet to be resolved.
“We continue to believe that the Republic of Korea has the capability to assume after 55 years, the 10th largest economy on the face of the Earth, with a very capable military, has the ability to assume responsibility for wartime operational control, in there roughly in the time frame of 2009,” U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Friday.
But South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang Ung said his country believes later is better than sooner.
“The opinion of the Korean Ministry of National Defense as well as the Korean public is that 2012 is the best year in terms of having the perfect conditions for security on the Korean peninsula,” Yoon said through an interpreter.
Also still under negotiation is how much money South Korea should pay to support U.S. troops on the peninsula.
Rumsfeld reiterated Friday that each country’s contribution should be “roughly equal.”
Currently, South Korea contributes about 38 percent toward the cost of having U.S. troops in South Korea, while Japan pays for about 70 percent of the costs associated with maintaining U.S. troops there.
Earlier in the month, Lawless said U.S. officials hoped to split the costs with South Korean government closer to 50-50, or the United States might have to make cuts in its force levels there.
On Friday, Yoon defended his country’s contribution.
“Korea has been contributing to the defense costs since the beginning of the 1990s and our contribution toward the defense costs has been on a steady upwardly curve with the exception of this year and last year, and so in consideration of these views, I hope that the negotiations will come to a smooth conclusion this year,” he said.