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(LEAD) Seoul, Washington to discuss stronger alliance amid growing N.K. threats

All Headlines 17:43 October 11, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS definition of extended deterrence in 5th para)

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- Foreign and defense ministers of South Korea and the United States will mainly discuss pending security issues on the Korean Peninsula at a regular consultation meeting in Washington next week.

In the "two-plus-two" meeting with their U.S. counterparts -- Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter -- Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Defense Minister Han Min-koo plan to discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including North Korea's increasing nuclear and missile threats, the defense and foreign ministries said in a joint statement.

"The ministers will ensure the two countries' ironclad alliance against provocations by the North and come up with a Joint Statement after the group meetings," the statement said.

As North Korea has escalated its saber-rattling by conducting five nuclear detonations in the past decade and test-firing a series of ballistic missiles, the policymakers are expected to talk about stronger sanctions on the communist regime and an extended deterrence at the gathering slated for Oct. 19 (Washington time), it said.

Washington's extended deterrence refers to the U.S.' stated commitment to mobilize all military assets, both nuclear and conventional, to defend its allies in crisis. At stake is how to flesh it out to make sure that it actually works in contingencies, security experts said.

(LEAD) Seoul, Washington to discuss stronger alliance amid growing N.K. threats - 1

The two-plus-two meeting has been held biennially since its first gathering took place in July 2010. It has played an important consultative channel between the allies to discuss diplomatic and security issues.

In Washington D.C. on Oct. 20, the two defense ministers will have a separate Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) to discuss measures to defend the Asian ally and about 28,500 American troops stationed on the peninsula against the North's military threats, Seoul's defense ministry said.

Other agenda items for the annual meeting include the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea by 2017 and a conditional transfer from Washington to Seoul of Operational Control (OPCON), or the wartime operational control of South Korea's military, it said.

Under their current alliance, a U.S. commander will exercise control over South Korean troops in the event of a war with North Korea. The two sides originally planned to transfer OPCON to Seoul in December 2015 but later postponed the move to an unspecified date in the mid-2020s.

The decision to deploy a THAAD battery came in July, months after the North's fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch the following month provided a strong impetus for the allies to move ahead with formal discussions about the potential placement of THAAD in the South.

As its latest provocations, Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test and launched three ballistic missiles last month, raising worries that the rogue regime is close to achieving its stated goal of developing a long-range nuclear missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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