U.S. focused on joint defense readiness with S. Korea: Pentagon
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- The United States continues to remain focused on its joint defense capabilities with South Korea and will make any related decisions through close consultation with Seoul, a Pentagon spokesperson said Wednesday.
John Kirby made the remarks when asked if the U.S. and South Korea were considering postponing joint military exercises despite a recent series of missile launches by North Korea.
"As I've said many times, we take our readiness on the peninsula very, very seriously," he said in a press briefing.
"Decisions about how we preserve that readiness and maintain it are decisions we make in lockstep with our South Korean allies, and that includes training events," he added.
Earlier reports said the allies may be considering postponing their combined training exercises, scheduled to be held next month, but largely because of the South Korean presidential election slated to be held March 9.
"We constantly evaluate and review our training exercises, our training events, training and education, and adapt it as conditions warrant and that's no different than what you're seeing on the Korean Peninsula," Kirby said.
Seoul and Washington have delayed or even suspended some joint military drills when former U.S. President Donald Trump held the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit with Kim Jong-un in June 2018, and also were forced to further delay or reduce joint training events due to the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020.
Still, the consideration to delay upcoming military exercises follows multiple missile launches by North Korea, which the U.S. has repeatedly condemned as a serious violation of multiple U.N. Security Resolutions and a threat to South Korea and other countries in the region.
"We condemn these launches. We're monitoring as closely as you can. (We) certainly call on North Korea to meet their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and stop these provocations," Kirby said when asked if the U.S. and South Korea may consider resuming or reinforcing their joint military exercises as part of steps against North Korea's missile provocations.
"In the meantime, here at the Department of Defense, we're going to do what we have to do to make sure our ROK-US alliance is as strong and as flexible and as capable as possible, and that's what our focus is on here," he added, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.
North Korea has staged seven rounds of missile launches since the start of the year, with its last missile launch taking place on Sunday (Seoul time), involving what it has identified as a "Hwasong 12-type ground-to-ground intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile."
Many believe the launch, if confirmed, may indicate the North's departure from its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been in place since late 2017.
Pyongyang said earlier this month that it will consider restarting all temporarily-suspended activities.
The U.S. is said to have called for a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the North Korean missile launches.
Washington earlier said it will take additional steps to hold North Korea responsible and accountable for its recent missile tests.
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