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South Korea to assess OPCON readiness with exercises

South Korea said Tuesday plans are underway to assess the military's readiness for transfer of wartime operational control to Seoul. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea said Tuesday plans are underway to assess the military's readiness for transfer of wartime operational control to Seoul. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- South Korea's military said Tuesday it could begin to carry out "Full Operational Capability" of the United Nations Command per an earlier agreement with the United States.

The plan, still at its early stages, addresses calls for wartime operational control or OPCON handover to South Korea from the United States. The timing of its execution could vary depending on government assessments of North Korea's nuclear and other weapons capabilities, Yonhap reported.

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The U.N. Command, comprised of officers from 15 nations, is currently led by the United States. It was initially based in Japan, but was relocated to the Korean Peninsula after the signing of the armistice in July 1953.

On Tuesday Seoul's defense ministry said in a report a joint U.S.-South Korean assessment of the "Full Operational Capability" of a South Korea-led U.N. Command -- in preparation for OPCON -- in the Korean theater of operations will take place in the second half of 2020, South Korean news service EDaily reported. The plan includes a command post exercise to assess Seoul's military readiness.

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The two sides also plan to carry out combined computer-simulated exercises as planned in March and April, according to reports.

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"For now we are carefully preparing for joint training," a senior-level defense ministry official told Yonhap.

Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said Seoul's military budget stands at about $42 billion and told reporters gathered at Gyeryongdae military headquarters he would "create a strong defense force that no one could underestimate."

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President Moon Jae-in, who was present, said the budget reflects an $8.6 billion increase since he assumed office.

South Korea's deterrence strategy includes the "4Ds," or "detect, decide, defeat and defend," against potential North Korean incursions, reports say.

Moon also watched a demonstration of virtual reality equipment being used for air force pilot training, MoneyToday reported.

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The domestically developed VR gear could be exported, Moon said during the demonstration.

"It could also be used in the gaming industry," the South Korean leader said.

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