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South Korea appoints new military chiefs amid OPCON plans

South Korea's president has nominated a new defense minister as talks with Pyongyang have stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea's president has nominated a new defense minister as talks with Pyongyang have stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- South Korea is moving forward with a reshuffle of top brass, nominating military officials specializing in OPCON or transfer of wartime operational control from the United States.

The decision comes a day after a U.S. military vehicle crashed, killing South Koreans near a U.S. military complex outside Seoul.

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South Korea's defense ministry said in statement on Monday that Gen. Won In-choul, Seoul's Air Force chief of staff, was nominated to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Newsis and JoongAng Daily reported.

Won has "excellent strategic insight into operational command capability," and the Air Force chief is "equipped with the competence and expertise to systematically advance defense reform and OPCON," Seoul said.

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OPCON transfer would place Seoul in command of combined forces on the Korean Peninsula. The policy has been discussed jointly with the United States since 2015, when the two countries agreed to a preliminary plan on the transfer.

Seoul also said Monday that President Moon Jae-in has nominated Army Chief of Staff Gen. Suh Wook to the position of defense minister. Suh was in active communication with U.S. Forces Korea in 2017 during North Korea provocations. Suh also oversaw the removal of guard posts at the Korean demilitarized zone, while drawing cooperation from U.S. forces and the United Nations Command, according to Seoul.

The United States maintains 28,500 troops on the peninsula, with many soldiers stationed near civilian areas.

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South Korean police and officials said Monday an accident involving a U.S. military vehicle killed four South Koreans in Pocheon, not far from the North Korea border, Stars and Stripes reported Monday.

The South Korean vehicle rear-ended the U.S. armored carrier on Sunday night, and all four passengers on board died on site, according to the report.

Training has been suspended and USFK has delivered its condolences.

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