South Korea's defense ministry confirmed Thursday that it is in consultations with the U.S. military to move the allies' Combined Forces Command (CFC) out of the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul.
The two sides are talking about relocating the CFC headquarters to the Ministry of National Defense compound not far away from the Yongsan base, according to the ministry.
It would be a reversal of a tentative agreement between the allies in 2014 to let the CFC maintain some of its facilities and personnel in the Yongsan installations.
"It's to support the smooth transition to the future combined forces command to be formed after the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) and further bolster the South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture in the process of pushing for OPCON transition," the ministry said.
South Korea is seeking to regain OPCON of its troops, having handed it over to the U.S.-led U.N. forces shortly after the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The ministry's statement came hours after USFK commander Gen.
Vincent K. Brooks openly said the CFC headquarters will be relocated to the ministry zone, although USFK's headquarters will move to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, about 70 kilometers south of Seoul, later this year.
"The Combined Forces (Command) headquarters will stay in the Seoul metropolitan area, moving closer and closer to the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of the Republic of Korea in the same compound, and that becomes our concentrated focus of the alliance military capacity and power," he said during a lecture at Seoul Cyber University.
Yonhap News Agency earlier learned that Defense Minister Song Young-moo had suggested in a meeting with Brooks that the CFC move to the JCS building so that the troops of the allies can actually serve shoulder to shoulder.
The South Korean government also wants USFK to vacate the Dragon Hill Lodge hotel inside the Yongsan base, as it plans to turn the vast swathe of land into a family park, according to multiple sources. USFK initially hoped to retain the hotel for use as a liaison office. (Yonhap)