Talks on transferring the wartime operational control of South Korean forces from Washington to Seoul are underway, and it looks like the transfer will be delayed by five years, to 2020.
Delegations led by Korea's Deputy Defense Minister Ryu Je-seung and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey are currently in Washington to discuss the appropriate timing.
Sources there say they agree South Korea's military needs more time to bolster its defense and other capabilities to counter threats posed by North Korea.
This meeting is crucial as it could be the last round of talks before the two allies announce their agreement at their annual defense ministerial meeting in Washington in October.
The U.S. took control of South Korean forces during the Korean War back in the early 1950s.
Peacetime control was returned in 1994, and the South Korean military is set to achieve full autonomy next year, if it takes over wartime operational control as previously scheduled.
But following Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February last year, Seoul had asked Washington to delay the transfer.
South Korea's Defense Minister Han Min-koo has also been pointing to the changing circumstances behind Seoul's request, emphasizing that North Korea has been carrying out realistic drills since Kim Jong-un took power in 2012.
Yoo Li-an, Arirang News.