(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. discuss N. Korea, alliance issues in annual military talks
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information, minor edits in paras 4-5, 7-13; CHANGES dateline)
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States held their regular defense talks here this week on North Korea and a range of pending alliance issues, Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday.
Agenda items in the two-day Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) session from Tuesday included ways for the operation of the advanced U.S. missile defense system, called THAAD, deployed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, and other ways to bolster deterrence against evolving North Korean threats.
Also discussed was how to strengthen trilateral security cooperation with Japan, including the issue of the General Security of Military Information of Agreement (GSOMIA) between Seoul and Tokyo.
"U.S. and ROK officials reaffirmed a shared goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and pledged that U.S. and ROK combined forces would remain ready and postured to defend the ROK," said a joint press statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense.
ROK stands for the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name.
South Korea was represented by Deputy Defense Minister for Policy Heo Tae-keun and the American delegation was led by Siddharth Mohandas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
The two-day talks ended as North Korea resumed its missile provocations, firing two cruise missiles toward the Yellow Sea. It marked the first known cruise missile launch since January, but Pyongyang has fired more than 30 ballistic missiles in more than a dozen rounds of missile tests this year.
"The leaders discussed the DPRK threat, particularly the increased volume and scale of DPRK missile tests over the course of the last year," the released statement said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The sides also shared information and assessments on activities at the secretive North's underground nuclear testing site in Punggye-ri. The North has reportedly completed preparations for another nuclear test there.
"The two sides affirmed that, should the DPRK conduct a nuclear test, the ROK and the U.S. will engage in a strong and firm bilateral response, to include options to deploy U.S. strategic assets to the region," said the joint statement.
"U.S. officials reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK, leveraging the full range of U.S. military capabilities -- to include nuclear, conventional, missile defense, and other advanced non-nuclear capabilities," it added.
To this end, the countries reaffirmed their commitment to hold the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group next month, according to the released statement.
The high-level dialogue on U.S. extended deterrence was suspended in 2018.
They also agreed to expand the size and scope of their combined exercises on the occasion of the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise that is set to begin next week, according to the South Korean defense ministry,
In tandem with the KIDD meeting, the allies held the Deterrence Strategy Committee (DSC) as well, during which Washington reaffirmed its commitment to mobilizing a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear options, to defend South Korea.
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