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American Forces Press Service

U.S., South Korean Leaders to Meet in Seoul

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2010 – The defense and foreign ministers of the United States and South Korea will meet next week to discuss joint exercises between the two nations and a recently announced delay in the transfer of operational wartime control of forces on the Korean peninsula to the South Korean military, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will join with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and Defense Minister Kim Tae-young in the first “2-plus-2” meetings in the South Korean capital of Seoul on July 21, Morrell said.

The talks will address the full range of security and alliance issues, including development of the new operational control transfer implementation plan and other enhancements to military readiness and deterrence, Morrell added during a Pentagon news conference.

South Korea already is a strong and close treaty ally, Morrell said, but since the unprovoked attack and sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan in March, President Barack Obama directed the Defense Department to further strengthen cooperation.

“Ever since,” Morrell added, “we have been engaged in high-level, close consultations in an effort to devise additional ways to bolster alliance capabilities and improve regional stability.”

Part of the 2-plus-2 talks will be to approve a proposed series of U.S.-South Korean combined military exercises, including new naval and air exercises in both the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.

“We are not yet ready to announce the precise details of those exercises,” Morrell said, “but they will involve a wide range of assets and are expected to be initiated in the near future. They will augment already planned bilateral exercises.”

The exercises will be defensive in nature, but will send an unmistakable signal to North Korean leaders and “will send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea and demonstrate our steadfast commitment to the defense of South Korea,” he said.

The South Korean military had been scheduled to take wartime operational control of forces on the peninsula in April 2012. Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed in Toronto last month to delay the transfer to December 2015.

“We think, from a warfighting control perspective, that the [South Korean] military would be capable of taking over operational control at the original date,” Morrell said, but he added that delaying the process makes sense.

“By doing so, we would be able to sort of broaden the scope of what is transferred, and we would be able to better synchronize some of those transformation efforts,” he explained.

Officials in both countries will work to perfect the South Korean military’s force management, defense reform and ground operations command efforts, Morrell said.

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