Korea, U.S. form group to deter North’s nukes

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Korea, U.S. form group to deter North’s nukes

WASHINGTON - South Korea and the United States agreed to establish a committee designed to expand nuclear deterrence during a round of annual security talks yesterday.

The agreement came during the 42nd annual Security Consultative Meeting held between South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday in Washington.

In preparation for next month’s G-20 Summit in Seoul, the U.S. and South Korea will also develop joint operation schedules to prepare for possible incidents during the event, including the possibility of a disturbance from North Korea.

The U.S. has agreed to provide surveillance support, including satellite monitoring, an early-warning system and manpower on standby, for the summit.

The two countries agreed to step up joint security drills as well.

During the talks, the two countries agreed to create a committee to expand the sharing of information in regard to North Korea’s nuclear program.

The negotiations and authorization of policies on nuclear threats will also be handled by the committee. The first round of working-level talks will be convened by the end of this year.

The committee will be the first standing organization established between the United States and an allied country since NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group.

Defense heads Kim and Gates also agreed to guidelines for the planned transfer of wartime operational control (Opcon) on the Korean Peninsula.

The guidelines include the “Strategic Alliance 2015,” a plan established in July that sets a basic framework for the transfer, including providing U.S. reinforcement forces after the 2015 power transfer until South Korea is completely capable of self-defense.

The U.S. and South Korea also agreed on joint national defense goals that outline the two nations’ alliance to develop new strategies for the 2015 command transfer date.

Also discussed were response measures for the swiftly changing situation in North Korea. Instability in the North’s regime may be increasing as the regime prepares for a second succession in the communist country’s history, from Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

Defense Minister Kim and Defense Secretary Gates agreed that North Korea should be held responsible for the sinking of the South Korean warship, Cheonan.

They also agreed that the joint alliance should strengthen its defense against North Korea by confirming the current status of U.S. troops in the country as well as possibly extending active service periods for U.S. troops stationed here.

In light of North Korea’s recent movements at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon, the two countries decided to reinforce surveillance of the North’s nuclear program and possible signs of missile firings.

By Kang Chan-ho [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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