Evolution of an alliance
South Korean and U.S. defense ministers carved out a meaningful agreement during the latest annual Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul. Han Min-koo and his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter approved new guidelines to counter long-range missile threats posed by North Korea under the so-called “4D Operational Concept” that would allow the two allies to “detect, disrupt, destroy, and defend against North Korean missile threats including nuclear, chemical and biological warheads”
North Korea is believed to have completed development of an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of flying up to 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) that could reach as far as the U.S. mainland. North Korea also has a fleet of submarines that could be fatal to South Korea. In May, Pyongyang announced it succeeded in the test-launch of submarine-based ballistic missiles. The new Korea-U.S. detection capacity could be a great comfort to us living under the nuclear threat from North Korea.
The two defense ministers agreed on the conditions-based transfer of Washington’s wartime command of South Korean forces to Seoul until the Korean military power is fully confident of defending itself from North Korea. Under the agreement, the U.S. 210th Field Artillery Brigade, equipped with high-tech weaponry, will remain at the southern side of the border.
Still, the latest defense talks have not clarified many key issues. Washington remains equivocal on installing the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Korea and is stern on its refusal to transfer core technologies that could allow Korea’s fighter jet program. Washington also remains neutral on Seoul’s concerns over Japan’s Self-Defense Forces that could cover North Korea.
Korea has hosted a chain of significant meetings over the last few days. ? Seoul must keep strong ties with Washington and stay friends with Beijing and Tokyo while improving relationship with Pyongyang. Seoul must finalize pending security issues with Washington and map out a delicate, yet comprehensive diplomatic strategy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 3, Page 34