The two countries’ defense chiefs have agreed to expand their planned exercise amid mounting tensions with North Korea
US and South Korean defense chiefs have agreed to expand their joint military exercise, scheduled for later this year, paving the way for more strategic weapons from Washington to be deployed on the peninsula amid increased saber clanging in Pyongyang. .
According to a statement from the South Korean Defense Ministry, the exercise, likely to be called Ulchi Freedom Shield, will be integrated with a civil defense exercise and upgraded to what Seoul considers the highest level of exercise. At a meeting on Friday in Washington, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Secretary Lee Jong-sup also agreed to “deterrence attitude” of their alliance, “including the deployment of ballistic missile defense systems and US strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula.”
The talks came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned his country… “nuclear war deterrent” used to be “all done” to respond to threats. Pyongyang has launched a slew of missile tests this year and may be poised to conduct its first nuclear weapons test since September 2017.
Lee and Austin “Made clear that if North Korea conducts its seventh nuclear test, despite opposition from the international community, the ROK [South Korea] and the United States will respond resolutely and collectively on the basis of a strong combined defense posture.” according to the Ministry of Defense.
North Korea has long threatened US and South Korea defense drills, calling them rehearsals for an invasion. This week Kim called on the joint exercises “thug-like behavior” and threatened “wipe out” Seoul as the ROK that makes “dangerous attempt” against the north. In a speech marking the 69th anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the Korean War of 1950-1953, he accused South Korea of “suicidal confrontation” bonding with “the American imperialists.”
South Korea has sought to deepen military ties with the US since newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May. Yoon said at the time that joint military exercises were… “key to our combined defense capability.” The new president has also been an advocate for the stationing of US nuclear weapons in South Korea.
While Seoul has sought more firepower from Washington, the US has pushed for greater cooperation between South Korea and Japan, who have clashed over trade and territorial issues in recent years, as well as long-standing vitriol over atrocities during the Japanese occupation of Japan. 1910-1945 peninsula.
At Friday’s meeting, Austin and Lee “agreed on the importance of trilateral cooperation with Japan and strengthening regional cooperation that protects shared security and prosperity, upholds common values and strengthens the rules-based international order”, the Pentagon said in a separate statement.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo may have been further tense this week as South Korea held military exercises near disputed islands between the countries.