S Korea, US discuss wartime troop command transfer
Seoul, Mar 21: South Korea and the United States started military talks today (Mar 21, 2006) where a key issue will be allowing Seoul to have command of its troops, instead of Washington, in the event of war.
South Korea has 690,000 troops, a large force meant to deter North Korea, which has a 1.2 million-strong military. But the U.S.
military, which has about 30,000 troops in the South, would have wartime control through a Combined Forces Command set up after the 1950-1953 Korean War.
South Korean and U.S. defence officials started two-days of talks in Seoul called the Strategic Policy Initiative meeting that will touch on the wartime command issue as well as how to bolster military cooperation, a South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman said.
President Roh Moo-hyun gave a timetable on a change in command for the first time when he said in January Seoul would work with Washington to complete a measure this year to transfer control of its troops to South Korea in the event of war.
South Korea ceded command of the defences of its side of the peninsula to U.S.-led U.N. forces during the Korean War. South Korea obtained peacetime command over its troops in 1994.
At a meeting in December, U.S. and South Korean officials discussed the wartime command issue as well as the relocation and realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea.