The role of the U.S.-led United Nations Command after Washington completes the transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea was hotly contested by the two countries' militaries.
This has fueled speculation that the U.S. would still maintain its military authority over the Peninsula even after OPCON transfer.
Multiple military sources confirmed that during the preliminary sessions conducted in the run-up to their Combined Command Post Training held last month the South Korean and U.S. militaries debated on whether the UNC had operational authority over the South Korean military during times of peace, even after the envisioned OPCON transfer from Washington to Seoul.
The two sides had reached a compromise before the actual training largely thanks to the leadership of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Park Han-ki and his rapport with U.S. Forces Korea commander General Robert Abrams.
But the incident highlights the need for a clear guideline before the OPCON transfer on the roles of the South Korean general who serves as the commander and an American general that takes on the role of a deputy.
The occasion also exacerbates prevailing concerns of the UNC's expansion.
Earlier in April, Deputy Commander of the UNC Wayne Eyre at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek said the UNC will stay on the Peninsula, even after the two Koreas end the armistice agreement.
When asked about the Command's role if a peace treaty can be reached, he replied, that it'll depend on the UN Security Council and the political decision of the U.S., signaling the UNC's presence ever after the event the two Koreas reunite.
Already, the UNC has the means to exert more power.
According to UNC's rules of engagement excluding South Korea, it has 17 sending states that could send troops to the Peninsula in wartime, enabling the U.S. to wield operational authority by establishing a multi-military command.
The UNC could then utilize the seven strategically designated United Nations-flagged bases the "rear" bases in Japan, in which American strategic assets are expected to be mobilized in the event of a crisis in Korea.
In light of this, Seoul's defense ministry responded that the UNC does not have operational authority over the the South Korean military but said it respects the UNC's efforts in maintaining the armistice agreement.
"The ministry added that South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff will closely cooperate with the UNC even after OPCON transfer.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News."