The United States and South Korea today agreed to establish “a bilateral strategy for tailored deterrence against … North Korean nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a press conference here today.
Hagel and his counterpart, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, spoke to reporters after the 45th Security Consultative Meeting in the South Korean Ministry of Defense building this morning. The annual meeting brings together military and foreign affairs officials from the two nations to discuss alliance, peninsular, regional and global issues.
The tailored deterrence agreement will create a strategic, policy-level framework within the alliance for deterring specific threats, Hagel said, “and help us work together more seamlessly to maximize the effects of our deterrence.”
Kim noted both sides have agreed on the need for a “more future-oriented and comprehensive strategic alliance.”
In a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, Hagel and Kim condemned North Korea’s December 2012 long-range missile launch and its February 2013 nuclear test, and “urged North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and to cease … its nuclear programs immediately, including its nuclear activities at Yongbyon, uranium enrichment and construction of a light water reactor.”
In his remarks, Hagel also emphasized North Korea’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. “There should be no doubt that any North Korean use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable,” he said.
The communiqué reaffirmed U.S. commitment to provide and strengthen deterrence for South Korea “using the full range of military capabilities, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella, conventional strike, and missile defense capabilities.”
It also provides for a “comprehensive counter-missile strategy” to, Kim said, “detect, defend, deter and destroy” threats from the North Korean arsenal.
The agreement states South Korea will “continue to build reliable interoperable response capabilities and to develop the Korean Air and Missile Defense system” and that both sides will further interoperability of the alliance’s command and control system.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended today’s discussions. Other senior U.S. military leaders in the region were present as well, including Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, who leads U.S. Pacific Command, and the outgoing and incoming commanders of U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command and Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, Army Gen. James D. Thurman and Army Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti. Their South Korean counterparts also attended.
Scaparrotti assumed the three-flagged South Korea-based command later in the day from Thurman, who is retiring.
Locklear and Thurman shared their views on regional issues yesterday with reporters traveling with Hagel before the change-of-command ceremony. Locklear noted that units from within his command train and conduct exercises regularly with South Korean forces, which he termed “highly capable and very professional.”
Thurman, who has commanded the roughly 28,500 U.S. service members in South Korea for two and a half years, noted that during his tenure readiness across the joint and combined force has been his highest priority.
During his command, he said, South Korean military forces have continued to “demonstrate their expertise in the air, on the ground and in the maritime domains.”
Thurman said he remains confident the allies can defend the peninsula, which has been in a state of suspended war since North and South Korea signed an armistice in July 60 years ago. The United States fought side-by-side with South Korean forces during that war, he noted, and the two countries signed a mutual defense treaty in 1953, 60 years ago yesterday.
Thurman said the alliance is based on shared values, combined hard work, and a collective commitment to stability involving the U.N. sending states, South Korea and the United States.
“Since the Korean War, the Republic of Korea has been one of the greatest success stories of our time,” he said. “They went from a country that was torn apart by war … [to] a very vibrant democracy, a global economic power, a vital security partner and a world leader.”
That success, Thurman added, “is an important example of what a great alliance can accomplish together, and it is worth defending together.”