SEOUL, June 12 (Bernama) -- Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong Doo called Wednesday for thorough preparations for an upcoming exercise with the United States to prove that South Korea is on course to meet the conditions for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea is supposed to regain wartime OPCON from the US when the conditions are met. Though no deadline was set, the two sides have been eyeing 2022 or thereabouts as a target date.
As a first step in checking Seoul's preparedness, the allies plan to stage an exercise to be led by a four-star Korean general in the second half of this year during which they will test Seoul's initial operational capability (IOC).
"Full preparation is needed in order to present our military's expertise and capabilities sufficiently to lead combined operations," Jeong said while presiding over a meeting to assess the military's preparations for the envisioned wartime OPCON transfer from Washington.
Jeong said the envisioned relocation of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) headquarters south of Seoul and the planned structure of the future joint command "are expected to guarantee preparations for the IOC verification and further boost operational efficiency."
During Jeong's bilateral talks with acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan earlier this month, the two sides agreed to name a separate Korean four-star general to lead their envisioned future joint command and relocate its headquarters, currently in Seoul, to Camp Humphreys, a sprawling US military complex in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.
South Korea handed over operational control of its troops to the US-led United Nations (UN) command during the 1950-53 Korean War. It retook peacetime OPCON in 1994, but wartime OPCON remains in the hands of the US.
Seoul was to regain wartime OPCON in 2015, but it was postponed amid Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.