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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald on Aug. 2)
OPCON transfer
Security criteria more important than date

It may not be so proud for a nation to repeat calls for a delay in implementing a bilateral agreement with another country. In some cases, however, it can be more rational and important to put other critical considerations before pride.

   Though not all South Koreans may agree, there seems to be an increasingly prevalent sentiment here that Seoul should again put off taking over wartime operational control from Washington, which is scheduled for December 2015.

   South Korea handed over its operational control to the U.S.-led U.N. troops during the 1950-53 Korean War and regained peacetime OPCON in 1994. Wartime operational control was originally set to be transferred to Seoul in April 2012. But it asked for a rescheduling of the timeline shortly after North Korea's deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in 2010, and Washington accepted.

   Calls have grown to postpone the transfer again following North Korea’s third nuclear test in February and ensuing threats of attack. In July, a report said Seoul’s Defense Ministry requested another delay in the wartime OPCON transfer.

   It is not wrong to argue that any further delay would damage South Korea’s national pride and might weaken the spiritual posture of its military and people. But the OPCON transition is a process that should be absolutely free of any potential risk. Thus, the decision on the right timing should be tied to critical security variables rather than dates previously agreed upon.

   Maintaining the current allied military structure would be more effective in resolving the North Korean nuclear problem and could remain an essential buffer against a possible failure to denuclearize the North.

   Defense Ministry sources said that U.S. officials showed a positive response to South Korea’s offer to reconsider the scheduled transition during a biannual defense meeting held in Seoul this week.

   In contradictory remarks, the nominee to become the top commander of American troops in South Korea told a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that he supported the transition as scheduled. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, however, emphasized in his prior written statement that the transfer should be implemented in the direction of not causing unnecessary crisis to the security of South Korea. It is a view that is fully shared by all.