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U.S.-South Korean Defense, Foreign Affairs Leaders Meet to Discuss Alliance

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2016 — U.S. and South Korean defense and foreign affairs leaders are meeting at the State Department here to discuss the future of the alliance.

North Korea continues to threaten the peace on the Korean Peninsula, and its nuclear and missile programs threaten the region and globe.

The “2+2” meeting – which includes Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo –  examines the full scope of U.S.-South Korean issues, with a particular eye on the North. It began today and continues tomorrow.

For decades, our alliance has underwritten the peace and the stability in the Korean Peninsula, and our bonds have really never been stronger,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting. “Now more than ever, the actions and the policies of North Korea are at the forefront of all of our concerns.”

North Korea tested a nuclear device last month with an estimated yield twice the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. North Korean media accounts said the nation has built warheads small enough to fit atop ballistic missiles.

Kerry called the test just the latest example of North Korea’s lawlessness “and yet another blatant example of a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Carter also spoke of North Korea’s nuclear program, saying the increase in testing poses a grave threat to security around the globe.

“In light of these provocative acts, our combined defense posture must be robust and our deterrence must be credible,” the defense secretary said. “The U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea is unwavering. This includes our commitment to provide extended deterrence, guaranteed by the full spectrum of U.S. defense capabilities.

“Make no mistake,” he continued, “any attack on America or our allies will not only be defeated, but also any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response.”

The United States has about 27,500 troops in South Korea, but many more can be deployed there if needed. The United States and South Korea agreed to place a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to protect South Korea from the possibility of ballistic missile attacks.

Shared Values and Continued Cooperation

South Korea and the United States share values and work together militarily around the world, Carter said. “Today and tomorrow, we’ll continue to modernize our alliance to seize new opportunities and to address evolving threats,” he said. “And we’ll make the plans we need to strengthen peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the region, and around the world.”

Yun stressed the growth of the threat, noting that in 2010, the alliance faced the threat posed by North Korea sinking the Cheonan, a South Korean navy vessel. “Today’s meeting is held in the face of the gravest nuclear and missile threat ever since the armistice, he said through a translator. “This year alone, which happens to be the 10th year since its first nuclear test, the North conducted two nuclear tests, fired 23 ballistic missiles and even reprocessed plutonium.”

Han said the North Korean nuclear program “is like a dagger to our throat,” and added that if the North’s threats continue unabated, the nation “will pose a direct and real threat not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also to the U.S. and beyond.”

The defense minister said through a translator that he looks forward to building an even more robust military capability in South Korea.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Distribution channels: Military