Daily Memo: Seoul’s Warnings Over the US-South Korean Alliance

South Korea appears to be increasingly convinced that it can't rely on Washington.

U.S.-South Korean security cooperation. The U.S. and South Korean defense chiefs spoke Thursday and said nice things about the future of the “ironclad” alliance. Also on Thursday, though, the chairman of South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff issued an implicit warning about enduring tension in the alliance, telling the South Korean parliament that the government may seek to accelerate the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean forces, known as OPCON, from Washington to Seoul if the transition continues to be delayed. The two sides have been talking about this issue for more than a decade. And, in truth, Seoul isn’t exactly in a rush to see it happen, since it would ostensibly make it easier for the U.S. to leave the peninsula altogether if compelled to and force the South to take on substantial new defense responsibilities and spending that it’s not yet ready for. Nonetheless, political pressure on South Korean governments to move forward with OPCON hasn’t gone away. And the U.S.-North Korean standoff in 2017 underscored Seoul’s frustration with its lack of control over its own forces. Meanwhile, a South Korean lawmaker released data this week showing that the U.S. military has left unspent nearly $60 […]

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