SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Yonhap) -- Talks between South Korea and the United States over the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) have been proceeding in a "very amicable" manner ahead of their annual defense ministerial talks slated for early next month, a Seoul official said Thursday.
The upbeat remarks by the defense ministry official raised hope for potential progress in the allies' consultations on the conditions-based OPCON transfer, a key topic on the agenda for the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) set to take place in Seoul on Dec. 2.
South Korea has been pushing to retake the OPCON from the U.S., but the process, including a set of tests to verify Seoul's capabilities to lead wartime operations, has slowed due to COVID-19-induced restrictions and other issues,
The allies conducted the initial operational capability (IOC) test in a three-stage program in 2019. But they have yet to complete the full operational capability (FOC) test due in large part to restrictions caused by the prolonged pandemic. The full mission capability (FMC) test is the last part of the verification program.
"Regarding the timing of the FOC test, it is a very sensitive matter, and we are conducting consultations at the last stage," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Unlike the SCM last year, discussions are proceeding in a very amicable atmosphere."
The official also pointed out the issue of the OPCON transition is unlikely to be described in any negative tone in a joint statement to be issued at the close of the upcoming defense ministerial meeting.
Defense Minister Suh Wook and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, are set to meet for the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).
High on the agenda is expected to be the OPCON transition as well as joint efforts for the complete denuclearization and establishment of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and for the development of the bilateral alliance in a "comprehensive and mutually beneficial" way, the ministry said.
On the eve of the SCM, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-choul and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, will also meet for the 46th Military Committee Meeting.