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S. Korea, U.S. to discuss OPCON transition in high-level meeting

2013/07/19 11:53

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- Senior South Korean and U.S. military officials will meet later this month for a high-level defense meeting here, the defense ministry said Friday, which is widely expected to address another delay in Washington's planned transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul.

The Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) will be held on July 30-31 in Seoul as the two countries are preparing to transfer OPCON to South Korea in December 2015 and draft a new joint military structure.

The biannual meeting takes place at a time when calls have grown to postpone the transfer of OPCON following North Korea's third nuclear test in February and its war-like threats against Seoul and Washington earlier this year.

"The KIDD is a working-group defense meeting that covers comprehensive security issues of South Korea and the U.S., so officials will discuss various agendas," Army Col. Wi Yong-seop said in a briefing, without elaborating on agenda details that have yet to be confirmed.

The defense meeting, launched in 2011, is an overarching structure that includes a series of alliance-related meetings, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee, the Strategic Alliance 2015 Working Group (SAWG) and the Security Policy Initiative (SPI).

Deputy Minister of Defense Lim Kwan-bin will represent South Korea to meet his American counterpart Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia David Helvey.

The issue of wartime control has recently surfaced after a top American official told Yonhap News Agency that the South Korean government had requested another delay to OPCON transition following this spring's round of North Korean provocations.

South Korean defense minister Kim Kwan-jin on Thursday told the ruling party that he had requested the U.S. government to reconsider the date of the planned 2015 OPCON transition in light of growing threats posed by North Korea.

On Friday, Seoul's defense ministry said Korean officials first proposed the postponement to Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, in May and the offer was also delivered to Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel through "relevant channels."

   Kim briefly mentioned the proposal during his first meeting with Hagel on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 1, Army Col. Wi said.

The proposal reflected rising tension with a nuclear-armed North Korea and its provocations in spring, and the two sides will continue to discuss the issue in an upcoming Security Consultative Meeting between defense chiefs of the two nations slated for October in Seoul, the ministry said.