SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday visited the joint security area (JSA) of Panmunjeom, the truce village located less than 50 kilometers north of Seoul, as part of his four-day trip to South Korea.
Hagel arrived in Seoul Sunday for his first travel to the country as Pentagon chief since taking office in February. The defense chief will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.- South Korea alliance and participate in the 45th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) before leaving for Japan. "(Hagel) arrived here yesterday for his first travel to Korea as the defense chief. It is very important for the U.S. defense chief to visit Panmunjeom given the ongoing armistice on the Korean Peninsula," Seoul's Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing.
At the SCM meeting slated for Wednesday, Hagel is expected to discuss with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin the agenda of delaying the transition of South Korea's wartime operational control.
South Korea handed over its wartime command of troops to Washington during the 1950-53 Korean War. Seoul regained its peacetime operational control in 1994.
Seoul initially agreed to retrieve its operational control in time of war in April 2012, but it called for a delay after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010.
South Korea had offered in May to postpone the wartime command transfer, which had been scheduled for Dec. 1, 2015, amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s third nuclear test in February and its long-range rocket launch in December 2012.
Hagel kept his cautious stance on the delay, telling reporters before arriving in Seoul that "I don't think we'll be in a position to make any final decision" on Seoul's request for putting off the wartime control transition, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
His cautious stance was attributable to no agreement yet reached between the U.S. Congress, administration and Pentagon. " The wartime operational control transfer includes a great deal of tasks, which should be reported to lawmakers of both countries," said spokesman Kim.