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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. agree to enhance defense against N. Korean threats

All News 23:10 September 28, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information in paras 4, 7-13
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- Senior defense officials from South Korea and the United States have agreed to seek ways to enhance their joint defense against North Korea's missile threats, the two sides said Tuesday.

The call for enhanced defense comes amid a series of North Korean missile launches.

"The leaders discussed DPRK's recent missiles launches and agreed to explore enhancements to the Alliance's defense posture to account for omnidirectional threats," they said in a joint statement released at the end of their annual Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue, held in Seoul on Monday-Tuesday (Seoul time).

They still underscored the importance of diplomacy and the resumption of dialogue with North Korea, according to the joint statement. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

Kim Man-gi (R), South Korea's deputy minister for national defense policy, and Siddharth Mohandas, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, pose for a photo during the South Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue in Seoul on Sept. 27, 2021, in this photo released by Seoul's defense ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The U.S. and South Korean delegations were led by Siddharth Mohandas, deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) for East Asia, and Kim Man-gi, deputy minister for national defense policy, respectively.

North Korea launched a short-range missile on Tuesday (Seoul time), about two weeks after it test fired a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea.

In a separate discussion session called the Deterrence Strategy Committee, the two sides again emphasized the need to strengthen their alliance-tailored deterrence "to address DPRK's threats including nuclear, weapons of mass destruction and missiles, amidst a dynamic regional security environment."

To this end, U.S. officials reaffirmed their country's ironclad commitment to providing extended deterrence to South Korea, "utilizing the full range of U.S. capabilities to include nuclear and conventional capabilities," the joint statement said.

"ROK officials reaffirmed that they will continue to develop the ROK military's nuclear and WMD response systems in order to deter and respond to North Korean threats," it added, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song earlier claimed the U.S.' military presence in South Korea, as well as its regular joint military exercises with South Korea, showed the U.S' hostile intent that his country faces every day.

North Korea has ignored U.S. overtures for dialogue, citing what it calls U.S. hostility against it.

The military leaders also noted "great progress" made toward the proposed transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) to South Korea, which is designed to take place once South Korea meets pre-identified conditions, such as operational capabilities.

"During the Conditions-Based Operational Control Transition Working Group, both leaders acknowledged the great progress made towards the transition of wartime Operational Control to the Future Combined Forces Command (F-CFC) and reaffirmed a mutual commitment to the bilaterally agreed upon Conditions-based OPCON Transition Plan," said the joint statement.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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