SEOUL-- South Korea will seek to have U.S. forces stay in the South even after it takes over wartime operational control (OPCON) of the country's troops from the United States, Seoul's defense minister said Tuesday.
South Korea is seeking to regain the U.S.-held OPCON of South Korean forces as Seoul and Washington continue consultations for a "conditions-based" transition with no specific deadline.
"Even if Seoul takes over OPCON, (South Korea) plans to seek to ensure that U.S. troops in Korea are not withdrawn and the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) is not disbanded," Defense Minister Song Young-moo told a forum.
The minister said that the South will push for regaining OPCON when its troops beef up its military capability, including the so-called "three-axis" defense scheme.
South Korea's military is pushing for a broader three-pronged defense platform against the North's threats and provocations -- the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) scheme.
Some conservatives raised concerns that Seoul's pursuit of taking over OPCON at an early date may lead to Washington's withdrawal of its forces from the South.
About 28,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries are in talks to create a new future combined command, which would replace the CFC when Seoul regains OPCON of the country's troops.
His remarks came as Japan's Kyodo News reported Tuesday that radio signals suggest that North Korea might be preparing for a ballistic missile launch amid some 70-day absence of the North's provocative acts.
Pyongyang has refrained from provocations following its launch of an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15.
Song introduced the concept of an "offensive" military operation scheme against the North, which Seoul's defense ministry and the military are currently designing to shift the country's main war plan from its defense-based one.
"If the North fires artilleries with multiple-rocket launchers into Seoul's adjacent areas and attacks South Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles, we cannot help but regard the North's move as (the start of) an all-out war," Song said.
He said that under such situations, the South needs to take offensive actions to totally destroy the North's main targets in a short time by mobilizing a strong three-axis defense platform.
"That strategy will minimize damage, including human casualties and that to infrastructure," the minister added.
Source: Yonhap News Agency