Moon Jae-in, South Korea's leading presidential candidate, on Sunday announced a set of policies on North Korea and national security, including an early recovery from the United States of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean forces.
At a press conference in the National Assembly, Moon, candidate for the Democratic Party, said he and his government "will take back the wartime OPCON early" and enhance deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
"We will take charge of our defense ourselves by all intents and purposes," Moon said.
The OPCON transfer, which was previously set for 2015, was deferred amid Pyongyang's provocations. Seoul and Washington have agreed on the "conditions-based" transfer, which observers say could come sometime in the 2020s.
Moon pledged that South Korea will play a bigger role in efforts to denuclearize the North and push for denuclearization based on simultaneous actions by stakeholders instead of demanding the North first show its resolve to give up atomic weapons.
The front-runner candidate said he will carry out former President Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" to engage with the North to ultimately persuade Pyongyang to change.
Moon's views on North Korea have surfaced as a hot button topic in this year's early presidential election. He's received harsh criticism from conservatives for earlier comments in which suggested he's open to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before U.S. President Donald Trump if elected.
On Friday, former Foreign Minister Song Min-soon disclosed a document to back up his claim that Seoul officials consulted North Korea before a key U.N. vote in 2007. It added fuel to a political fire that has engulfed presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in, who was then a chief presidential aide. (Yonhap News)