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USFK chief nominee says OPCON transfer needed in 2015
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 30 (Yonhap) -- The nominee to become the top commander of American troops in South Korea said Tuesday he supports the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) as scheduled in 2015, despite Seoul's call for some flexibility on the timeline.

   The stance by Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti reflects a gap between the allies on the appropriate timing for the OPCON transfer in the face of growing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

   "I do agree with the timetable. It is a bilateral agreement, Strategic Alliance 2015, to turn over operational control by December of 2015," he said in a Senate confirmation hearing.

   In May, President Barack Obama nominated Scaparrotti, formerly deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to head U.S. Forces Korea. If confirmed, he will get promoted to the rank of four-star general and succeed Gen. James Thurman.

   "I think it's a good plan ... And I think we should move forward with it," Scaparrotti said, adding it is expected to pave the way for enhanced combat readiness.

   But he emphasized that South Korea's military will have to meet "a detailed set of certification requirements" by the agreed-upon date.