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U.S., South Korean, Japanese Military Leaders Discuss North Korean Threat

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2016 — Stressing the regional aspect of the threat North Korea poses, Maritime Self-defense Force Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, the Japanese chief of defense, joined discussions with senior U.S. and South Korean military leaders at the Pentagon today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the meeting, which follows yesterday’s Military Committee Meeting with South Korean chairman Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin.

Both South Korea and Japan are treaty allies of the United States -- meaning the United States will come to the defense of both countries in the event of aggression.

The trilateral meeting was the third since July 2014 among the senior military leaders and highlights the growing threat of North Korean nuclear and missile technologies.

Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command; and Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, participated in the discussion.

North Korean Nuclear, Missile Tests

The military leaders discussed the most recent North Korean nuclear test on Sept. 9. That blast -- estimated at twice the size of the nuclear device dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 -- was the fifth since 2006. North Korean newspapers said the device was small enough to mount on a ballistic missile, which North Korea is also testing.

The three military leaders reconfirmed the tests were flagrant violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and agreed to firmly respond to the acts in coordination with each other. They called upon North Korea to “refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and to instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments.”

Dunford reiterated America’s “ironclad commitment” to defend both South Korea and Japan. The United States, he said, will use all military capabilities -- conventional, nuclear and missile defense -- to deter North Korea.

The senior military leaders agreed to continue working together to further mutual security issues in order to enhance peace and stability in the region.

Dunford has often spoken about the threat of North Korea. Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator, has directly threatened South Korea, Japan and the United States on many occasions since he took power in 2011.

Fifteen years ago, it was possible to imagine that any conflict with North Korea could be limited to the Korean Peninsula, but that is no longer the case, Dunford said.

North Korea’s emphasis on nuclear, missile and cyber capabilities adds a new dimension to deterrence efforts, the chairman said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)