Defence chiefs of SKorea, US to hold annual security talks at Pentagon this week

The defence chiefs of South Korea and the US will hold their annual security talks near Washington, D.C., this week to discuss joint deterrence against evolving North Korean threats and other alliance issues, the defense ministry said Sunday.

Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, are set to attend the 54th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Pentagon on Thursday (local time), amid concerns that Pyongyang could raise tensions by conducting a nuclear test or other provocative acts, Yonhap news agency reported.

Topping the agenda are joint efforts to enhance the credibility of America’s “extended deterrence” commitment to mobilising the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear options, to defend its Asian ally against North Korean aggression, Seoul officials said.

The efforts include the allies’ coordination on the deployment of U.S. strategic military assets to the peninsula. President Yoon Suk-yeol and his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, agreed to their deployment in a “timely and coordinated” manner, during their May summit in Seoul.

The upcoming SCM comes amid expectations Seoul and Washington could devise more effective measures to address tensions that have run high in the wake of a series of the North’s ballistic missile and artillery launches.

The two sides also plan to discuss trilateral security cooperation among the South, the U.S., and Japan, and preparations for a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Seoul-Washington alliance next year, according to the officials.

Lee and Austin are also to be briefed on the outcome of a “full operational capability” (FOC) assessment that the two countries’ militaries conducted in August for the envisioned handover of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul from Washington.

The FOC assessment is the second part of the three-stage program designed to vet Seoul’s capabilities to lead the allies’ combined forces. The program is part of various conditions required for the OPCON handover.

In addition, the two defense chiefs are expected to touch on other regional and global security issues, including tensions across the Taiwan Strait. In last year’s SCM joint statement, the two sides “acknowledged the importance of preserving peace and stability” in the strait.

During his stay in the U.S., Lee plans to lay a wreath at a Korean War memorial, meet with think tank experts and visit the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

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