High-ranking U.S. and South Korean armed forces officials on Tuesday discussed plans to return to Seoul command of its own troops during wartime, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The command transfer is presently planned to happen at the end of 2015. However, Seoul earlier this month requested that it be delayed -- for the second time -- amid concerns that South Korean military capabilities are not yet at the desired level. North Korea's rising nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities also are said to have played a role.
At a separate meeting in Seoul, South Korean and U.S. government officials, including U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen, agreed to "further strengthen cooperation with China down the road," on the implementation of sanctions targeting North Korea, Cho Tai-young, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman, was reported by Yonhap to have said.
Cohen, who heads the department's terrorism and financial intelligence office, is understood to have raised options for increasing sanctions compliance in some East Asian countries where North Korea reportedly continues to retain port access.
Separately, Japanese parliamentary Senior Defense Vice Minister Akinori Eto met with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on Monday. The two men jointly assessed the potential for re-examining a 1997 bilateral defense accord "in order to meet emerging opportunities and challenges," according to a Defense Department press release.
Tokyo is perceived to be moving away from its post-World War II pacifist stance due to concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons work and China's growing regional military presence.
Meanwhile, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter "has no immediate plans to travel to North Korea," according to the Carter Center. There has been speculation that Carter could shortly travel to the North in order to request the release of imprisoned U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, Yonhap reported.
Pyongyang in the past has used visits by high-profile U.S. dignitaries for domestic propaganda purposes and to ask for negotiations with Washington.