Following a meeting at the Pentagon, Republic of Korea Defense Minister Han Min-koo and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a new “conditions-based approach” to the transfer of wartime control of allied forces in South Korea. Following the annual security consultative meeting, Hagel told Pentagon reporters the US and ROK signed a memorandum of understanding, which will delay the transition from US control of all allied forces during war in order to build up key “defensive capabilities” in the ROK military to address an “intensifying North Korean threat.” The ROK was due to assume wartime control by the end of 2015, but now the country will focus on gaining new defensive and military capabilities prior to any future declaration. A new date for OPCON transfer has not yet been set. Han said due to the fluid security situation, North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear and advanced missile technology, and other concerns, the ROK is aiming to have a raft of new capabilities ready by 2020 before considering control transition. Until then, he added, the allied command headquarters at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul will be maintained in order to deter further North Korean provocations. (Joint Communiqué released following the 46th ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting.)
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.