U.S., Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen meetMilitary leaders of South Korea and the United States met in Seoul yesterday to discuss their joint defense posture against North Korean threats, sources here said.
South Korean Army Gen. Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey, sat down for the 35th Military Committee Meeting (MCM). They were expected to review joint defense capabilities between the two countries against North Korea in light of deadly armed provocations against the South a year ago.
At the start of the talks, Dempsey reaffirmed the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to South Korea.
“I can tell you that [Jung and I] both agreed that this is a critical time in our friendship and alliance,” Dempsey said, referring to outstanding defense issues such as the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean forces from Washington to Seoul in 2015. “We’re moving ahead toward transition. We’ve got many issues. But the relationships we’ve built and settings like this are a great opportunity to help us continue to strengthen what is already an extraordinarily healthy alliance.”
The United States has insisted that it will not reduce its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region despite looming cuts to its defense budget and will remain committed to defending South Korea.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.
Jung said this year’s MCM carries significance since it is the first such meeting for both him and Dempsey. Jung succeeded Gen. Han Min-koo on Wednesday and Dempsey took his post earlier this month.
Jung noted that President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to maintain their countries’ partnership for peace and prosperity and develop a multidimensional strategic alliance during their summit talks in Washington earlier this month. He added military commanders of the two countries should “try to make sure the presidents’ vision is realized in specific military accomplishments.”
Their meeting preceded a security talk between the defense ministers of the two allies, scheduled for Friday. Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta are expected to discuss bolstering their defense cooperation at the 43rd Security Consultative Meeting.