U.S., South Korean Defense Chiefs Cite Strategic Progress

SEOUL, South Korea, Oct. 28, 2011 — The Unit­ed States and South Korea are tak­ing addi­tion­al steps to advance their mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion into a strate­gic alliance of bilat­er­al, glob­al scope, both nations’ defense lead­ers said today.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and his coun­ter­part, South Kore­an Defense Min­is­ter Kim Kwan-jin, held a joint news con­fer­ence at the South Kore­an defense min­istry build­ing here fol­low­ing the 43rd Secu­ri­ty Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing exec­u­tive ses­sion. The meet­ing is an annu­al gath­er­ing of U.S. and South Kore­an mil­i­tary and for­eign affairs offi­cials.

“Our talks focused on a num­ber of issues crit­i­cal to strength­en­ing and trans­form­ing the alliance, which remains vital to the inter­est of both of our nations and a cor­ner­stone of sta­bil­i­ty in North­east Asia,” Panet­ta said.

The sec­re­tary said the two nations will “ensure a strong and effec­tive alliance deter­rence pos­ture, includ­ing the Unit­ed States’ nuclear umbrel­la,” to ensure North Korea nev­er under­es­ti­mates the alliance’s will and capa­bil­i­ty to respond deci­sive­ly to aggres­sion.

The South Kore­an defense min­is­ter said the two nations are coop­er­at­ing close­ly in mat­ters of defense pol­i­cy and in provo­ca­tion response plan­ning.

Both defense chiefs respond­ed to the ques­tion of what they would have to see North Korea do with its nuclear pro­gram to bring it into com­pli­ance with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.

Panet­ta said denu­cleariza­tion is an impor­tant area for North Korea to address if it wants to improve rela­tions with the alliance.

“It’s no secret that denu­cleariza­tion means that they have to stop test­ing, they have to stop devel­op­ing weapons, they have to stop enrich­ing [ura­ni­um] in vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al rules and require­ments,” the sec­re­tary said. “They have to allow [inspec­tions]. It’s all of those areas that would have to be addressed, and … are in the process of being dis­cussed with the North Kore­ans.”

Speak­ing through an inter­preter, Kim said a strong alliance force pos­ture has proven to be an effec­tive deter­rent against fur­ther provo­ca­tions such as North Korea’s 2010 sink­ing of the South Kore­an ves­sel the Choe­nan and shelling of Yeon­pyeong Island lat­er that year.

Kim added it will only be pos­si­ble to ease ten­sions on the Kore­an penin­su­la once North Korea itself feels the need to stop provoca­tive behav­ior.

“Only then, I believe, will we be able to meet our objec­tives,” the min­is­ter added. “Obvi­ous­ly this will take some changes in pol­i­cy from the North Kore­an per­spec­tive. What we must do is to pre­pare our­selves with a robust defense pos­ture that will respond very strong­ly if North Korea ever con­ducts addi­tion­al provo­ca­tions.”

A joint com­mu­niqué issued after today’s meet­ing stat­ed areas of enhanced coop­er­a­tion between the Unit­ed States and South Korea include estab­lish­ing an ongo­ing defense pol­i­cy dia­logue, increased com­bined mil­i­tary exer­cis­es on the penin­su­la, and clos­er coop­er­a­tion in peace­keep­ing, human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, dis­as­ter relief and sim­i­lar efforts.

The two nations also will strength­en coop­er­a­tion in the space and cyber­space domains and work to increase resilience of crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, the com­mu­niqué stat­ed.

Panet­ta and Kim both said cyber attacks are the bat­tle­field of the future, and they intend to expand the scope of their coop­er­a­tion in that domain to effec­tive­ly respond to new and emerg­ing threats.

Both defense chiefs also said they are on track with the strate­gic plan that calls for mov­ing U.S. troops from Seoul to dif­fer­ent facil­i­ties at Camp Humphreys, and to trans­fer oper­a­tional wartime con­trol to South Kore­an com­mand. The nations have agreed to com­plete both actions by the end of 2015.

Panet­ta — along with Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. James D. Thur­man, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Korea — also attend­ed meet­ings ear­li­er this week with Kim, South Kore­an Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak and For­eign Min­is­ter Kim Sung-hwan.

U.S. and North Kore­an del­e­ga­tions met ear­li­er this week in Gene­va, but accord­ing to State Depart­ment offi­cials, those meet­ings result­ed in no agree­ments, and sig­nif­i­cant issues remain.

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