By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, July 15 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. House of Representatives stressed the need to maintain and even strengthen U.S. military presence in South Korea in its defense budget bill passed earlier this week, the bill showed Friday.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House on Thursday, seeks to allow defense spending of up to US$839 billion in fiscal year 2023.
"It is the sense of Congress that South Korea continues to be a critical ally of the United States," says the bill.
It adds that U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) "serves as a strong deterrent against North Korean military aggression and as a critical support platform for national security engagement in the Indo-Pacific region."
The bill also notes the 28,500-strong USFK serves "not only as a stabilizing force to the Korean Peninsula but also as a reassurance to all our allies in the region."
To this end, the bill calls on the U.S. government to "maintain and strengthen" U.S. relationships with South Korea and other allies in the region, including Japan.
It also highlights the need for the U.S. to "maintain its existing robust military presence in South Korea to deter aggression against the United States and its allies and partners."
In a separate report accompanying the defense authorization act, the House armed services committee also calls on the Department of Defense to report to the committee on ways to enhance the allies' joint deterrence, noting President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, have agreed to reactivate the countries' high-level "Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG)."
"The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than March 1, 2023, on how the Department of Defense will seek to implement the U.S. extended deterrence commitment to the Republic of Korea as well as progress made on the EDSCG," said the report, referring to South Korea by its official name.
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