U.S., South Korea agree to make OPCON shift conditions-based

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U.S. and South Korean officials have decided to make shifting wartime operational control (OPCON) to South Korea conditions-based rather than based on a set timeline, a senior U.S. Army official said on Friday.

Curtis Scaparrotti, the Combined Forces Command chief in Seoul, told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing following the Security Consultative Meeting and Military Consultative Meeting held in Washington on Thursday and Friday.

The general said he is encouraged by the signing of the memorandum of understanding on wartime operational control of South Korean forces from Washington to Seoul.

"The bilateral decision to shift to a conditions-based OPCON transition will ensure our combined defense posture remains strong and seamless while the Republic of Korea develops or acquires the critical military capabilities necessary to assume the lead in the combined defense of South Korea," Scaparrotti said.

According to an agreement reached by South Korea and the United States in 2010, Washington should transfer the OPCON to Seoul on Dec. 1, 2015. Some 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

The decision means a U.S. general will continue to command Combined Forces Command in Seoul and the United States will retain its wartime leadership role until the alliance agrees conditions are conducive for a stable OPCON transition.

"The United States and the Republic of Korea agreed to temporarily maintain war-fighting capabilities in Seoul and north of the Han River, which are critical to the defense of the Republic of Korea," the general said.

One result of this is the U.S. 210th Field Artillery Brigade will remain in the northern area until South Korea fields a comparable capability, Scaparrotti said.

Still, the vast majority of the U.S. force relocation agreements will continue as planned, he added. Enditem

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