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South Korean Defense Minister Offers to Resign

South Korea's defense minister said Tuesday that he has offered to resign, just days after he sealed a deal with the United States for Seoul to regain full wartime control of South Korean forces.

Conservatives have assailed Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung for making the deal in light of the increased regional tension following North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test.

However it was not clear Yoon's decision was linked to the criticism.

Yoon said he told President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday of his intention to step down. The presidential office declined to say whether the president planned to accept his resignation.

"I told the president that I would like to take a rest," Yoon told reporters, according to his office.

Yoon met last week with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and agreed that Seoul will retake full wartime operational control of Korean forces from the United States sometime between 2009 and 2012.

Control now is exercised by American officers heading a joint headquarters system.

The Washington agreement drew fire from conservative groups and the opposition Grand National Party, which called the move a "security failure" and demanded Yoon's resignation.

His critics, including some of the country's former defense ministers, claim the transfer is premature and would undermine deterrence against North Korea.

Roh, who has asserted a foreign policy less dependent on Washington, has remained adamant, contending that leaving the United States in control is a slight to national sovereignty.