US and South Korean defence ministers meet to finalise suspension of military exercises

US and South Korean defence ministers meet to finalise suspension of military exercises

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo will meet with his US counterpart, James Mattis, in Washington DC today for the

Jeong Kyeong-doo James_Mattis

Photo: US Department of Defense

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo will meet with his US counterpart, James Mattis, in Washington DC today for the annual Security Consultative Meeting.

The discussion will focus on efforts to transfer wartime operational control of South Korea’s armed forces back to Seoul and outline the future role of US forces in the alliance. South Korea has pushed for full control of its armed forces since 2015, when North Korea’s nuclear programme and defence posture began to intensify. However, in the current détente, the transfer of operational control is being framed by both Seoul and Washington as a way to build military trust between the two Koreas. Central control of its armed forces would also allow Seoul to fulfil its promise to slowly disarm parts of the DMZ.

Talks on the transfer are expected to result in a plan to develop a combined forces command, which would allow US forces to maintain their role of security guarantor under South Korean control. The transfer is expected to continue throughout the coming year, with Washington expected to closely monitor inter-Korean talks. However, signs of renewed tension on the peninsula could derail these efforts.

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