Updated April. 22, 2010 05:28
Korea and the U.S. have agreed to delay Washingtons transfer of wartime operational command to Seoul that had been scheduled for April 2012, said a high-ranking South Korean official yesterday. The delay is likely to be announced at a strategic meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries as early as June in Seoul.
The White House finished its review of Koreas request for the delay and decided to accept. Under such an agreement, the two countries are discussing detailed follow-up measures, the official said, adding, I understand that unlike the White House, the U.S. Defense Department still opposes the delay.
The official also said, The two countries reached an agreement in principle, but discussions are necessary on details such as whether the agreed implementation plan for the transfer should be replaced with a new plan or the agreed plan will be postponed, and if so, how long the agreed plan will take. In addition, who will pay the additional costs of the delay should be also discussed. Seoul and Washington are also reviewing announcing the delay at the bilateral foreign and defense ministers meeting scheduled this year.
Another Seoul official said, The strategic meeting will likely be held in Seoul. The date, though not fixed, will be in June to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
The two countries reportedly agreed to the postponement considering factors such as South Koreas troop deployment to Afghanistan; U.S. consideration for its ally; Koreas participation in the U.S. missile defense system; and instability on the Korean Peninsula stemming from the sinking of the Korean naval ship Cheonan.
The U.S. has also listened to public opinions in Korea on the postponement. The Pentagon sent Abraham M. Denmark, a senior researcher at the U.S. progressive think tank Center for a New American Security, to Seoul in February. Denmark held talks with the Korean presidential office, the Defense Ministry, lawmakers, retired generals and private experts on the matter. Around the same time, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said Washington is taking the matter seriously.