Moon discusses expedited OPCON transfer with Pentagon chief

Posted on : 2021-12-03 17:17 KST Modified on : 2021-12-03 17:17 KST
The two also discussed plans to find overlap in the US’ ambitions in the Indo-Pacific and South Korea’s New Southern Policy
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) meets with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday during his trip to Korea. (Blue House pool photo)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) meets with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday during his trip to Korea. (Blue House pool photo)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the Blue House on Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibility of speeding up the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of armed forces in Korea, the Blue House said. The next step in the OPCON handover is an assessment of full operational capability (FOC).

Moon and Austin also “agreed to keep working to find overlap between the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy and South Korea’s New Southern Policy as President Moon and President Biden have already agreed,” Blue House spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said in material distributed to the news media.

Austin also attended the 53rd ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting on Thursday, during which the two countries agreed to carry out the full operational capability (FOC) assessment, the second stage of the OPCON transfer, in the latter half of 2022. In a joint communique following the security talks, South Korea and the US “acknowledged the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, as reflected in the May 2021 Joint Statement between President Biden and President Moon.”

In his meeting with Moon, Austin remarked that the meeting had been a productive and meaningful opportunity to discuss various matters of strategy. He added that Korea’s successful evacuation of Afghans who had worked for the Korean government in Operation Miracle illustrated Korea’s outstanding partnership with the US.

Moon expressed his gratitude to the Americans for their generous cooperation and support for an event held in Hawaii in September during which the two sides repatriated the remains of fallen soldiers.

“The ROK-US alliance continues to develop beyond a security alliance to a future-oriented alliance that spans the areas of the economy, technology and public health,” Moon said.

The South Korean president went on: “Our government has suggested that we formally declare the end of the war on the Korean Peninsula so that the next administration can take over at a time when North Korea-US dialogue and inter-Korean dialogue are underway. We ask [the US] for continued interest and support because close cooperation between our two countries is of critical importance for continuing the journey toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Austin also expressed his respect for Moon’s diplomatic efforts to improve North Korea-US relations and inter-Korean relations. The US remains committed to extending diplomatic efforts to the North, he added.

At Moon and Austin’s meeting on Thursday, South Korea was also represented by Defense Minister Suh Wook; Gen. Won In-choul, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Seo Ju-seok, first vice director of the National Security Office. Other American officials present at the meeting were Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Christopher Del Corso, charge d’affaires ad interim at the US Embassy to South Korea; Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the Indo-Pacific Command; and Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commander of US Forces Korea.

By Lee Wan, staff reporter

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