TORONTO - The United States and South Korea have agreed to postpone until 2015 Washington's transfer of wartime command of allied South Korean forces to Seoul, President Obama said June 26.
Currently, if war were to break out on the Korean peninsula the United States would assume operational command of South Korean forces. Under a 2007 agreement with Seoul, that plan was due to come to an end in April 2012.
"One of the topics that we discussed is that 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," Obama said. "We want to make sure that we execute what's called the OPCON transition in an effective way."
The decision was made at a meeting between Obama and his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-Bak on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Toronto.
"We made a formal request to President Obama and to the U.S. administration for the adjustment of the transfer of the timing of the wartime operational control," Lee told reporters at a joint appearance with Obama.
"And I would like to thank President Obama for accepting this proposal, and we agreed to transfer this in the latter half of 2015 - by late 2015."
The White House's chief adviser on Asia, Jeff Bader, told reporters on a conference call that South Korea wanted to push back the date to underline the U.S. commitment to security in the region at a time of tension.
The always tense relations between Seoul and its unpredictable neighbor North Korea have become even more poisonous since a South Korean warship was sunk in March in a suspected northern attack.
Obama, Lee and G8 leaders all condemned the attack, which saw 46 South Korean personnel killed, and officials confirmed they were preparing a strong statement on the matter to present to the UN Security Council.