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S. Korea, U.S. defense chiefs to hold dialogue in Seoul

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- Defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States will meet next week in Seoul to discuss security issues on the Korean Peninsula and boost bilateral military ties as part of their annual dialogue, the government here said Friday.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his American counterpart Chuck Hagel will have the annual Security Consultative Meeting on Wednesday to discuss rising threats posed by North Korea and whether to delay the planned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul in December 2015.

"The two defense chiefs will assess threats posed by North Korea and discuss ways to how to jointly deal with it," the ministry said in a release. "They will also discuss whether to postpone the timing of the wartime operational control."

Ahead of the defense ministerial meeting, the two nations' heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will meet on Monday to coordinate military issues and joint military plans.

At the end of the meeting, the two sides will announce a joint declaration on deterrence against the communist nation and bilateral military issues, including the OPCON transfer. In addition, they will sign a joint military plan that outlines how to handle North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

The written plan details how to provide a nuclear umbrella on the Korean Peninsula in case of a North Korean nuclear provocation, according to military officials.

The move comes in response to growing concerns over Pyongyang's nuclear development following its third atomic test in February. Seoul's defense ministry last month reported to parliament that the North has made considerable progress in developing a fairly robust nuclear program and is capable of making atomic weapons at any time.

In his first visit to South Korea for four days starting Sunday, Hagel will attend a series of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of alliance between Seoul and Washington.

The Pentagon chief plans to visit the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, pay tribute to fallen soldiers buried in the national cemetery and attend a reception that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the bilateral alliance forged at the end of the Korean War, the ministry said.

On Wednesday, Kim and Hagel will co-host a change-of-command ceremony for the U.S. Forces Korea commander, in which Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti will replace Gen. James Thurman.

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear III will also attend the ceremony during their visit to the nation, the U.S. Forces Korea said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/130927/s-korea-us-defense-chiefs-hold-dialogue-seoul