The South Korean Defense Ministry on Wednesday said it has requested that the United States postpone for the second time plans to hand over wartime military authority to Seoul due to concerns about the rising nuclear weapons danger from North Korea, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Under current plans, the U.S. military is slated to transfer to Seoul no later than December 2015 wartime command of South Korean troops. The United States has held that command since 1953.
Previously, two longtime allies in 2010 agreed to delay the wartime command transfer, which at that time was planned for spring 2012.
The U.S. military deploys approximately 28,500 military personnel in South Korea that would be called to action in the event of a new war with North Korea.
An anonymous senior U.S. administration official on Tuesday said the State Department and White House were talking with Seoul about its requested delay, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in an interview with Yonhap emphasized that the Obama administration would not hold negotiations with North Korea on a peace accord if Pyongyang continues with its nuclear weapons development. The North in recent weeks has made repeated calls for bilateral talks with Washington that would focus on resolving security issues.
"Until the government of North Korea commits to ... the complete, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, then I don't see how we, the United States, can move in any other direction other than to continue to maintain the alliance that we have," Hagel said. "So until the North Koreans start to fulfill those commitments [made in a September 2005 denuclearization agreement], then I think we are pretty limited to how far we can discuss it."
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.