[Shangri-La Dialogue] S. Korea, U.S. pledge to flesh out military exercise intensification plans
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup (right) and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin pose for a photo before their talks on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore on Saturday. (Ministry of National Defence)
SINGAPORE — The South Korean and U.S. defense chiefs agreed on Saturday to flesh out plans to intensify combined military exercises and bolster the viability of the United States’ extensive deterrence against growing threats from North Korea.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup had his first face-to-face meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in the morning on the sidelines of the three-day Asian security summit Shangri-La Dialogue which runs until See you on Sunday in Singapore. The 30-minute meeting started at 10:45 a.m. local time.
The two defense chiefs discussed ways to improve coordination in handling North Korean threats and other challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
Lee and Austin shared the view that close coordination between the two countries is more important than ever in light of the serious situation on the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region.
Intensification of military exercises
The two sides specifically discussed how to take follow-up action to the agreements reached at the May 21 Yoon-Biden summit. The South Korean and U.S. presidents agreed to step up military exercises and bolster U.S. extensive deterrence against North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons. threats.
“The two ministers agreed to expand the scope and scale of the combined South Korea-US military exercises and training, which were agreed at the South Korea-US summit, to maintain firm military preparation and to fight tonight,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said. in a statement in Korean.
“Both sides agreed to seek concrete action plans through consultations between the military authorities.”
fight tonight prep
The two defense chiefs also noted that “stable and unimpeded access to military training facilities in South Korea is key to maintaining combined defense posture and combat readiness tonight.”
Austin also expressed his gratitude to Lee for Gov. Yoon Suk-yeol’s plan to bring a military base that hosts the THAAD interceptor system into full operation at an early date, a senior South Ministry official said. Korean Defense, who wished to remain anonymous, said during a closed-door briefing.
In this context, the Department of Defense said the two sides had discussed ways to improve the viability of the US extended deterrence.
Extended deterrence is the United States’ commitment to deter or respond to adversary coercion or nuclear and non-nuclear military attacks against United States allies and partners. The American nuclear umbrella is one of the means offered by the United States to achieve widespread deterrence.
During the meeting, Lee specifically stressed the importance of bilateral efforts to reactivate the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Advisory Group (EDSCG) at the vice-ministerial level, conduct a tabletop exercise, and deploy U.S. strategic assets. “in a timely and coordinated manner”.
The U.S. Department of Defense said Saturday that Austin underscored the U.S.’s ironclad commitment to defending South Korea, which “leans on the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear,” in a separate press release.
In May. Biden reaffirmed the U.S.’s extensive deterrence commitment to South Korea “using the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities,” in the South Korea joint statement. -United States.
During a press briefing, Lee also pointed out that the bilateral meeting has “significance in the sense that the two could pave the way for taking follow-up action on security issues that were discussed at the Korea summit. of the Southern United States”.
“The meeting is also a good opportunity for South Korea and the United States to build mutual consensus on key outstanding issues related to the alliance.”
Indo-Pacific region, Ukraine
The two sides also discussed military aid to Ukraine during the bilateral talks, the South Korean official said at the closed-door briefing.
Austin did not directly ask South Korea to provide lethal weapons to the war-torn country, but he asked South Korea to step up military aid given Ukraine’s lack of weapons.
Lee, in return, said South Korea was looking at ways to provide more support to Ukraine while acknowledging legal constraints on supplying weapons to Ukraine.
In addition, the security environment and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region were discussed during the bilateral talks, the two countries confirmed in their press releases.
The U.S. side “expressed concern over China’s decision to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific and hopes to strengthen coordination between South Korea and the United States to get China to join the rules-based international order,” the South Korean official said.
North Korea as a major regional challenge
The US defense chief repeatedly underscored the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region in his speech at the Shangri-La dialogue
“Today, the Indo-Pacific is our priority theater of operations. Today, the Indo-Pacific is at the heart of American grand strategy.
But at the same time, Austin pointed out that the “security alliance partnerships in the Indo-Pacific are a deep source of stability.”
The US defense chief highlighted North Korean nuclear threats as one of the key regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific and stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation to deal with the threat.
“As our National Defense Strategy notes, we all face a persistent threat from North Korea. The United States will always stand ready to deter aggression and uphold our commitments under the treaty and the will of the UN Security Council,” he said.
“North Korea’s usual provocations and missile tests only underscore the urgency of our task. And so we are deepening security cooperation between the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The US defense chief said the three countries will push forward a multi-pronged approach aimed at simultaneously strengthening the alliance’s readiness and opening the door to dialogue.
“Together, we will continue to strengthen our extensive deterrence against nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems. And we remain open to future diplomacy and fully prepared to deter and defeat future aggression.