OPCON transfer in 2015 'realistic,' U.S. Army leader says
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- A top U.S. Army commander in charge of the Asia-Pacific region said Friday the current schedule for the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of Korean forces from Washington to Seoul is "realistic," but further assessment is needed to determine whether it's appropriate in terms of political realities.
Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, said a proper timeframe from the military perspective is a matter to be discussed by new South Korean and U.S. defense leaders serving on the peninsula.
"The dialogue, though, has to be measured by not just military capability but the diplomatic circumstances and the political realities," he said in a news conference at the Washington Convention Center.
The general, based in Hawaii, was on a visit here to attend the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting.
South Korea is scheduled to regain operational control of its own troops in the event of war as of December 2015. Seoul handed over its operational command to the U.S.-led U.N. troops after the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Seoul has requested a delay in the OPCON transition, citing increased military threats from North Korea, which conducted a third-known nuclear test early this year.
"We think the (current) timelines are realistic, but as we move forward the timelines will be determined by the players who are really in the arena," Brooks said.
He was referring to Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, new commander of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea, and South Korea's new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Choi Yun-hee, as well as newly appointed Army chief Gen. Kwon Oh-sung.
Brooks, who took command of the 80,000 soldiers of U.S. Army Pacific in July, said his troops will support whatever timelines are set for the OPCON transition.
On the issue of regional missile defense, he emphasized the importance of beefing up an "integrated air and missile defense."
"The capabilities of the threats are increasing, whether it is the range or the types of munitions that are being delivered," he said.
He was apparently talking about North Korea's missile programs, although he did not directly mention the communist nation, instead saying "adversaries" are increasing their missile stocks.