SEOUL, South Korea and the United States agreed to work together to expedite the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul, the defense ministry said Thursday.
Senior defense officials of the two sides reached the consensus during a meeting of the Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) held in Washington for two days from Tuesday (U.S. time), the ministry said.
Seoul and Washington confirmed that "significant progress" has been made in preparation for the OPCON transfer and pledged to speed up joint efforts to meet the conditions required for the handover at an early date, officials said.
South Korea handed over control of its forces to the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War to defend against invading troops from North Korea. Peacetime control of its forces was returned in 1994, but wartime control still rests with the U.S.
The two countries agreed in 2007 to transfer OPCON to Seoul by 2012. Amid growing threats from North Korea, however, the planned transfer was postponed until the South becomes more capable of coping with the North's threats.
During this week's session, the two sides also shared the view that last year's inter-Korean military deal has contributed to easing tensions and building trust and agreed to continue close communication and cooperation in the course of its implementation, officials said.
The Comprehensive Military Agreement, clinched during the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, calls for a series of trust-building and arms control measures under a broader scheme to halt all hostile acts against each other.
Pointing to the Korea-U.S. alliance as the linchpin of the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, the allies also agreed to deepen cooperation in various areas, such as the defense industry, cyberspace and outer space, according to the ministry.
Chung Suk-hwan, Seoul's deputy defense minister for policy, represented the South Korean side, and David Helvey, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, led the U.S. delegation.
The two sides plan to hold the next round of the meeting in the second half of this year in Seoul, the ministry added.
Launched in 2011, KIDD has served as a venue for the allies to discuss comprehensive defense issues by integrating a set of consultative mechanisms, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee and the Security Policy Initiative.
Source: Yonhap news Agency