U.S. Joint Chiefs chair stresses 'extended deterrence' on peninsula
The United States reaffirmed its commitment to South Korea's security, including providing "extended deterrence," during annual talks between the two countries' top military chiefs, according to a joint statement released Wednesday.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made the remark Tuesday during the 45th Military Committee Meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Won In-choul, conducted through a videoconference.
The comment comes just days after North Korea unveiled a massive new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and other strategic weapons in a military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday.
"Gen. Milley reiterated the United States' firm commitments to the Republic of Korea [ROK] and to providing extended deterrence," the statement said, using South Korea's official name.
Extended deterrence refers to the U.S.' commitment to use a full range of military capabilities, including its nuclear umbrella, to protect its allies from enemy nuclear and missile threats.
During the talks, the two generals said the alliance has remained a “linchpin" for regional security for the past seven decades, and discussed specific measures to strengthen their defense posture and enhance cooperation.
Gen. Won praised joint efforts to maintain the alliance's "Fight Tonight" readiness despite difficulties stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Tuesday's meeting was also attended by Maj. Gen. Jung Sang-hwa, acting chief director of the JCS Directorate for Strategic Planning. From the U.S. side, Indo-Pacific Command leader Adm. Philip Davidson and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams joined the meeting.
The Military Committee Meeting is held every year, usually a day before the defense ministers of the two countries hold their annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).
This year's SCM is slated to be held in Washington on Wednesday. South Korea’s new Minister of National Defense Suh Wook left for the United States on Tuesday to attend the meeting — his first foreign engagement since he was sworn into office last month.
Suh will have a tough task ahead of him at the meeting, as the administration of President Moon Jae-in has pinned its hopes on his ability to convince Washington to follow through with the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (Opcon) to Seoul on schedule.
The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the U.S. assessment process for the Opcon transfer, raising concerns that control may not be reverted to South Korea within the remainder of Moon’s term as planned.
But the U.S. decision to postpone the full operational capability (FOC) assessment phase with the scaling down of joint military exercises in August has created suspicion in Seoul that Washington has grown reluctant to relinquish command of allied forces on the peninsula to a South Korean four-star general in light of threats from Pyongyang and Beijing.
Suh is expected to defend South Korea’s proposal to keep the Opcon transfer on schedule in today’s talks with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as well as discussing North Korea’s recent military activities and efforts to denuclearize the peninsula.
BY YONHAP, SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]