U.S., South agree on joint counterattack

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U.S., South agree on joint counterattack

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22일 국지도발대비계획에 서명한 서먼 연합사령관(왼쪽)과 정승조 합참의장. [사진 합참]

South Korean and U.S. military reached an agreement to carry out a joint counterattack against any surgical strike on the South from the North, as tensions are still high in the wake of the regime’s third nuclear weapons test.

Jung Seung-jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea, signed the agreement with James Thurman, commander of South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, on Friday.

“This agreement is meaningful because it will enable a strong retaliation against an actual provocation by the North and make them bitterly regret committing such provocations,” Jung said, after signing the agreement. “Today’s agreement guarantees those actions in the form of a document.”

Previously, the participation by U.S. forces was limited, as they were only supposed to intervene in an all-out war between the two Koreas, not all military clashes, respecting South Korea’s right to self-defense.

Although the South Korean military has its own operation plans against any surgical attack from North, it has not shared their information with the ally.

However, under the new agreement, South Korean forces will lead a counterattack against the North’s provocations, and the U.S. forces will support the move.

South Korean soldiers will respond to a provocation first, and if needed, they will ask for additional forces from the U.S. military.

The new plan also clarified what constituted as a provocation from North Korea, such as: violation of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border; shelling the northernmost islands in South Korea’s Yellow Sea; infiltration by low-flying fighter jets into the South’s territory; infiltration by special forces of North Korea through the front-line units; surgical clashes between the two Koreas near the Military Demarcation Line; and torpedoing South Korean submarines.

According to the South Korean military, Seoul and Washington launched a plan for the joint counterattack starting from December 2010, but they postponed the final agreement because of continuous military provocations from the North.

“This is the utmost measure to deter North Korea’s provocations,” Kim Kwan-jin, the reappointed defense minister, told reporters after the announcement of the Blue House on his second term on Friday. “This is a breakthrough development from the previous joint South-U.S. cooperation against the North’s provocations.

“We clarified that our responses will be restricted in light of self-defense,” Kim said.

Jung visited an Air Force defense unit on Saturday and told soldiers that North Korea’s Air Force has sharply increased the activity of its fighter jets this month.

“North Korea could cause a provocation with low-flying infiltration AN-2 aircraft or other drones that they recently revealed,” Jung told the cadets. “You need to be vigilant to detect any enemy aircraft and intercept it as soon as possible.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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