By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 28, 2010 - The United States and South Korea have agreed to delay until December 2015 the transfer of wartime operational control of troops on the Korean peninsula to South Korea, the two nations' presidents announced following a June 26 meeting in Toronto.
Specific details of how the wartime operational control will shift will be formulated next month during meetings in the South Korean capital of Seoul, Pentagon officials said.
Transfer of control had been scheduled for April 2012. The change reaffirms the importance of the U.S. military alliance with South Korea, President Barack Obama said.
South Korean officials discussed extending the transfer date with U.S. officials even before North Korea torpedoed and sank the South Korean ship Cheonan on March 26, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said.
Extending the deadline will allow the ultimate transfer to proceed more smoothly and allow the U.S. and South Korean militaries to be more in sync, Pentagon officials said.
"We have arrived at an agreement that the transition of operational control for alliance activities in the Korean peninsula will take place in 2015," Obama said. "This gives us appropriate time ... within the existing security context, to do this right, because this alliance is the lynchpin of not only security for the Republic of Korea and the United States, but also for the Pacific as a whole."
Obama and Lee discussed the Cheonan incident, and what will happen in the months ahead. "We agreed that Korea and the United States, that we will do all that we can to deter any acts of North Korean aggression leveled against us, and that we will react swiftly and strongly so that this will not happen again," Lee said through a translator.
He said the South Korean government is working through the United Nations Security Council to bring about a strongly worded statement condemning North Korea. "We also agreed on the follow-up activities that we would be jointly taking between Korea and the United States," Lee said.
During a news conference at the G-20 meetings in Toronto yesterday, Obama praised Lee's restraint following the sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
"It is absolutely critical that the international community rally behind him, and send a clear message to North Korea that this kind of behavior is unacceptable," Obama said, "and that the international community will continue to step up pressure until it makes a decision to follow a path that is consistent with international norms."