중앙데일리

U.S. spells out specifics of its military backing

Seoul considers ways to assist in Afghanistan war  PLAY AUDIO

Oct 23,2009
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, right, and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates attend a joint press conference yesterday after holding the 41st Security Consultative Meeting at Defense Ministry headquarters in central Seoul. [YONHAP]
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday stipulated for the first time that his country will give Korea all possible means of “extended deterrence” - including a nuclear umbrella, conventional military capabilities and missile defense.

The statement confirms a continuing U.S. commitment to defend South Korea against North Korean military threats. In response to the U.S. security guarantees, the South Korean government is considering various ways to assist U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, according to key Blue House sources.

Following an annual Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul with Kim Tae-young, Gates’ South Korean counterpart, the two allies released a joint communique, marking the first time they have elaborated on the meaning of extended deterrence. The concept was initially mentioned in a 2006 statement following North Korea’s nuclear test. “The United States will continue to provide extended deterrence using the full range of military capabilities including the nuclear umbrella to ensure ROK security,” Gates said in a press conference.

The U.S. confirmation came after North Korea indicated it could return to long-stalled disarmament discussions after facing UN sanctions for its nuclear test in May. Kim said it was too early to say whether the North was ready to engage seriously in nuclear diplomacy. “Although, on the surface, there are signs of some change from North Korea, including its recent willingness to talk, in reality the unstable situation - such as the nuclear program and the military-first policy - continues unchanged,” he said.

Gates said he made no direct proposal to the South Korean government for troop aid to Afghanistan.

“There are a range of needs from helping to pay for the expansions and sustainment of Afghan army and police. There are civil projects and economic reconstruction and so on,” he said. “So we obviously welcome any contribution that any countries around the world are prepared to make, but that decision - what and how much to contribute - is entirely up to the Republic of Korea.”

There had been speculation that Gates would ask South Korea to boost its aid to Afghanistan during his two-day Seoul visit, laying the groundwork for U.S. President Barack Obama to request combat troops for Afghanistan during his visit to Seoul next month.

On Oct. 18, Geoffrey Morrell, U.S. Defense Department press secretary, said that South Korea could make more financial contributions to the war-torn country. South Korean officials, who all requested anonymity, said they shared the view that the country should reinforce contributions to the international community.

Defense Minister Kim did not make an immediate response to Gates’ remarks, nor did the South Korean government. Sources with the presidential office only said the government has various options under review.

From 2002 through 2011, South Korea will have sent $130 million to Afghanistan, which accounts for nearly 0.2 percent of the amount that other countries contribute. During the same time span, Japan and Iran will have provided aid of $2 billion and $500 million, respectively.

Reiterating that South Korea and the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear power, the two defense heads agreed to extend and normalize tour lengths for all service members assigned to Korea to three years. They also agreed to maintain the current U.S. troop level in Korea.

The United States keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea, down from about 37,000 five years ago. The U.S. decided to maintain the current level of forces in South Korea even after Seoul’s retaking of wartime command over its troops from the U.S. in April 2012.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]







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