Yoon's delegation discusses more strategic assets in D.C.
The team also delivered a personal letter from Yoon to U.S. President Joe Biden, said People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Park Jin, head of the delegation, that reflects the president-elect's "firm will and vision for the development of the Korea-US alliance."
During the 40-minute meeting with Sullivan, Park said it was stressed that "strengthening the Korea-U.S. alliance is at the core of the foreign policy" of the incoming Yoon government.
"We shared the perception that North Korea's nuclear and missile development poses a threat to security not only on the Korean Peninsula but the entire region," Park told reporters after his meeting with Sullivan. "We had consultations on ways to enhance the joint defense posture of South Korea and the United States and strengthen the U.S. extended deterrence."
Extended deterrence, or the use of U.S. nuclear forces to defend its allies under a potential nuclear attack threat from a third country, is often described as a nuclear umbrella.
When asked if there was any discussion of the allocation of strategic assets in South Korea, Park replied, "It came up naturally during the discussion."
He added that deployment of strategic assets "can be considered as an important factor in strengthening extended deterrence."
U.S. strategic assets include nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, long-range bombers, stealth fighters and other military hardware that are used for strategic deterrence against potential adversaries.
The two sides also exchanged views on North Korea policy, including Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
Park said, "Especially amid the escalating security threat from North Korea, we believe that we could increase our deterrence by showing that South Korea and the United States are working closely together seamlessly."
On March 24, North Korea launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since late 2017, after lifting a self-imposed moratorium on longer-range missile and nuclear tests.
Yoon's letter highlighted the need to further upgrade the South Korea-U.S. alliance to a more comprehensive and strategic one to cope with new challenges including North Korea's nuclear threat and economic security issues, according to Park.
They also discussed a need to hold a bilateral summit between Yoon and Biden soon after the new Korean president's inauguration next month.
Biden was the first foreign leader Yoon spoke to over phone on March 10, hours after his election victory was declared.
Yoon previously said he supports South Korea's participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, the U.S.-led cooperative forum with India, Japan, and Australia, seen as a means of containing China.
When asked about the Quad issue, Park replied, "South Korea's participation in Quad working groups in the fields of Covid-19, climate change and emerging technologies will contribute to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region," adding that there was discussion that Korea's role is "very important."
Regarding strategy on China, Park said Wednesday, "As South Korea and the United States are allies with common values, it is important to create an order based on democracy and market economy, rule of law, human rights and international norms. China understands that, and we talked about the importance of taking acceptable actions together."
Park stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the United States and the improvement of Seoul-Tokyo relations, noting the two neighbors have "a lot in common." He added that South Korea "has a big role to play in Northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region by improving bilateral relations" with Japan.
The Quad issue was also discussed during the delegation's meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman Monday. They further discussed the importance of reactivating the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group.
Yoon's delegation held a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin later Tuesday and discussed the role of the U.S. Forces Korea and Seoul-Washington joint exercises. The group did not meet separately with President Biden.
Yoon's seven-member delegation, including former Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, departed for Washington on Sunday for policy consultations with U.S. officials, congressional leaders and experts at think tanks.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]