Earlier this month, I co-chaired the annual meeting Republic of Korea-US Security Consultative Meeting in Washington, DC, with the event in its 54th year and involving US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The SCM functions as a ministerial-level defense advisory body and has served as a symbol of the South Korea-US alliance. It was launched to bolster bilateral security consultations following North Korea’s capture of the U.S. naval intelligence vessel Pueblo in 1968, and played a key role as the South Korea-United States alliance United has become the most exemplary alliance in the world.
It should be noted that this year’s SCM took place when the security situation was more complex and serious than ever. Russia threatens to use its nuclear weapons as aggression in Ukraine continues, heightening nuclear war fears of non-nuclear states. Meanwhile, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is exploiting the chaotic situation facing the international community, using it as a window of opportunity to advance North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
Kim Jong Un carried out numerous ballistic missile launches and raised tension on the Korean peninsula to the maximum, passing a new law on nuclear forces policy and declaring the first use of nuclear weapons. Such provocations by the Kim regime pose a serious threat to the security and stability not only of the Korean Peninsula, but also of the region and the world.
During this year’s MCS, South Korea and the United States shared an in-depth discussion to deepen and develop deterrence and response options against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, as well as the Korea-United States alliance, under the common vision of pursuing a comprehensive comprehensive strategic alliance. The main achievements of this year’s SCM can be summarized in four points:
First, South Korea and the United States pledged to deepen their cooperation in various areas to build capabilities that implement the United States’ extensive deterrence commitment to the Korean Peninsula, while noting that the 2022 program Nuclear Posture Reviewrecently released by the U.S. Department of Defense, made it clear that any nuclear attack by North Korea would lead to “the end of [the Kim] regime.” The two nations also pledged to increase the credibility of the United States’ extensive deterrence engagement through the rapid and effective use of American strategic assets, while monitoring Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. North.
Second, the two countries shared the view of develop combined exercises and training events to bolster the alliance’s Fight Tonight readiness posture against North Korean threats. Both sides noted that this year’s Ulchi Freedom Shield exercise, conducted and merged with the South Korean government’s wartime readiness exercise, signifies a full restoration of the combined theater-level exercise that had been reduced and deferred over the past five years. We also assessed that various combined field training exercises, held in conjunction with Exercise Ulchi Freedom Shield, made a significant contribution to solidifying a strong combined defense posture. Based on these accomplishments, we are committed to further building substantial capabilities in the execution of combined South Korea-U.S. operations in 2023 by expanding combined field training exercises at the regimental or above, including combined amphibious exercise Ssang Yong.
Third, the two nations agreed to promote the role of the alliance for freedom, peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world. In particular, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense and the United States Department of Defense have pledged to carry out close consultations as South Korea develops its Indo-Pacific strategic framework and establishes an action plan in the field. of the defense ; they also pledged to coordinate to develop defense cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as with Pacific island countries. Meanwhile, the two countries assessed the progress of trilateral security cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan to respond to North Korean threats, and agreed to continue to strengthen the security cooperation through efforts such as information sharing, high-level political consultations and trilateral exercises.
Fourth, the two nations are committed to close coordination on North Korean policy to facilitate the denuclearization of North Korea. Last August, the South Korean government offered its bold initiative to North Korea. The bold move aims to strongly deter North Korea’s nuclear threat, deter North Korea’s nuclear development through sanctions and international pressure, and steer North Korea on the path to denuclearization through the dialogue and diplomacy. This is also in line with US overtures to North Korea, which keep the door open for dialogue and seek diplomatic solutions, while ensuring deterrence based on the South Korea-US alliance. Secretary Austin expressed strong support for the bold move by the South Korean government. South Korea and the United States shared a common understanding of the need for close political coordination between the two nations in order to accomplish denuclearization by changing North Korea’s perspective, and both countries committed to continue relevant discussions.
This year’s SCM was the first for the Yoon administration, underscoring the importance of the South Korea-US alliance as the linchpin of South Korean security policy. Dynamic developments for the alliance were already foreseen thanks to many achievements to date, including the South Korea-US summit in May, the defense ministerial meetings held twice this year, and the consultation and expanded deterrence strategy that was reactivated after years of hiatus. I believe that this year’s SCM reflected the continued momentum for a stronger alliance, reaffirmed South Korea’s unwavering commitment to security with the United States, and laid a a solid stepping stone for the alliance, as it promotes peace and prosperity not only on the Korean peninsula, but also in the Indo-Pacific region and the world.
The year 2023 holds deep significance, marking the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty. At the end of the SCM, Secretary Austin and I pledged to make 2023 a historic year that marks another great leap forward for the alliance. I once again renew my determination to deepen and develop the South Korea-US alliance into a comprehensive global strategic alliance that safeguards the common values of freedom, democracy, human rights and statehood. by right. I am grateful to the people of South Korea and the United States and to the international community for their support for the development of the alliance.
Jong Sup Lee is the South Korean Defense Minister.