U.S.-South Korea Alliance Remains Strong, Leaders Say

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2010 — The Unit­ed States and South Korea are ready to counter any insta­bil­i­ty caused by a lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion in North Korea, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and his South Kore­an coun­ter­part said here today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates escorts South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Tae-young through the Pentagon during his official visit, Washington, D.C., Oct. 8, 2010.
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates escorts South Kore­an Nation­al Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young through the Pen­ta­gon dur­ing his offi­cial vis­it, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Oct. 8, 2010.
DoD pho­to by R.D. Ward
Click to enlarge

Gates and Nation­al Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 42nd Secu­ri­ty Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing, after which they told reporters that the U.S.-South Korea mil­i­tary alliance has nev­er been stronger.

The news that ail­ing North Kore­an leader Kim Jong-il has anoint­ed his son, Kim Jong-un, as his suc­ces­sor has the alliance prepar­ing to defend against all pos­si­ble North Kore­an threats.

“When Kim Jong-il’s health may dete­ri­o­rate or if there is a move­ment of pub­lic opin­ion in North Korea, we can­not elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there will be an insta­bil­i­ty sit­u­a­tion in North Korea,” Kim said through an inter­preter.

The men also dis­cussed the threats fac­ing the alliance, the con­di­tion of the forces today, and the con­tin­ued trans­for­ma­tion of the alliance, Gates said.

The two lead­ers con­firmed that the U.S.-South Korea strate­gic part­ner­ship “remains vital to the inter­ests of both our nations,” Gates said.

Both min­is­ters not­ed that this year marks the 60th year since the start of the Kore­an War and how that con­flict has cement­ed the alliance. “Those bonds form the foun­da­tion of an endur­ing, res­olute, and capa­ble defense of South Korea,” Gates said.

North Korea remains the great­est threat to peace in North­east Asia and is the focal point of the defense pos­ture on the penin­su­la. North Korea is believed to have at least 1.5 mil­lion mil­i­tary mem­bers, and has nuclear capa­bil­i­ties. In March, North Korea tor­pe­doed and sank the South Kore­an navy ship Cheo­nan, killing 46 sailors.

“We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing extend­ed deter­rence using the full range of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary might: from our nuclear umbrel­la to con­ven­tion­al strike and bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense,” Gates said. “In the wake of the Cheo­nan inci­dent, the close coop­er­a­tion across the whole of our two gov­ern­ments sends a clear mes­sage to North Korea that its provo­ca­tion and aggres­sion will not be tol­er­at­ed.”

Both men called on North Korea to end provoca­tive actions like the Cheo­nan attack. “We once again called for North Korea to take respon­si­ble actions in regards to the attack against the Repub­lic of Korea ship Cheo­nan,” Kim said. “We also recon­firmed the res­olute desire of [South Korea] and the U.S. to joint­ly respond to North Kore­an mil­i­tary provo­ca­tions.” In recent weeks North Korea has tried to open talks with South Korea, Kim said.

“North Korea has tak­en more of a stance towards appease­ment and there have been … North Kore­an attempts at dia­logue,” he said. “How­ev­er, it is the basic posi­tion of the Repub­lic of Korea gov­ern­ment that we need a recog­ni­tion of North Korea’s role in the Cheo­nan inci­dent, and we need an apol­o­gy from North Korea and a pun­ish­ment of those respon­si­ble. And North Korea must also take clear mea­sures that will pre­vent any fur­ther provo­ca­tions of this sort.”

If the North ful­fills these con­di­tions, the South will reopen dia­logue, the South Kore­an defense min­is­ter said.

Kim also addressed the agree­ment on Strate­gic Alliance 2015, a com­pre­hen­sive imple­men­ta­tion plan for trans­fers of oper­a­tional con­trol of forces on the penin­su­la to South Korea by 2015. “We have also achieved sig­nif­i­cant­ly mean­ing­ful accom­plish­ments,” he said, “such as the devel­op­ment of the defense coop­er­a­tion guide­lines that will real­ize the future vision of the alliance and the agree­ment to sys­tem­ize the extend­ed deter­rence pol­i­cy com­mit­tee, a coop­er­a­tive mech­a­nism in the area of extend­ed deter­rence.”

South Korea has been a strong ally to the Unit­ed States, hav­ing pro­vid­ed thou­sands of troops dur­ing the Viet­nam War, and hav­ing sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. South Korea also is a valu­able pres­ence in human­i­tar­i­an relief oper­a­tions in places such as in Haiti.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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