S. Korea, U.S. to hold regular defense talks on N. Korea, OPCON transfer

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States were to hold biannual defense talks in Washington on Wednesday to discuss regional security situations and major bilateral issues, such as the transition of the wartime operational control (OPCON), the defense ministry said.

During the 19th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) set to run through Thursday, the two sides will discuss “major pending security issues, such as the assessment of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and the policy coordination on North Korea,” the ministry said in a release.

The meeting, the first of its kind under the Joe Biden administration, comes as Washington completed a review of its policy on the North. Pyongyang has been ramping up rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea, while rejecting dialogue offers.

Also on the table during the meeting will be the conditions-based OPCON transition and ways to further strengthen a joint readiness posture, including staging combined exercises, according to the officials.

Seoul and Washington are working for the transition of the wartime operational control of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul. Seoul seeks to achieve the goal at an early date, though no specific time frame has been set and there have been delays in due procedures for the transfer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The two sides are expected to have in-depth discussions on a wide range of issues,” a ministry official said.

Deputy Defense Minister Kim Man-ki and David Helvey, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs, will represent their countries, according to the ministry.

Launched in 2011, KIDD is a comprehensive defense meeting between Seoul and Washington that integrates a set of consultative mechanisms, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee and the Security Policy Initiative. The forum usually meets twice a year.

The last session took place in September last year via teleconferencing due to the coronavirus situation.

This photo, provided by the defense ministry, on Feb. 9, 2021, shows the South Korean and the U.S. marine corps' joint landing exercise held in April 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)