(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from NSC spokesperson Kirby in last 3 paras: ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, April 10 (Yonhap) -- The United States remains fully committed to the security and defense of South Korea, a state department spokesperson said Monday, amid reports of leaked U.S. intelligence documents that suggest the U.S. may have been eavesdropping on conversations at the South Korean presidential office.
Vedant Patel, deputy spokesperson for the state department, reiterated that the U.S. is still working to verify the validity of the leaked Pentagon documents, but said the country is also in talks with allies and partners to reassure them of U.S. defense commitments.
"I would start with by saying that our commitment to the Republic of Korea is ironclad," he said when asked about the leaked documents in a daily press briefing, referring to South Korea by its official name.
"The Department of Defense and intelligence community are working to review and assess the validity of these documents," added Patel.
Earlier news reports said a set of leaked Pentagon documents revealed that U.S. intelligence services eavesdropped on conversations at South Korea's presidential office early last month.
"U.S. officials are engaging (at) high levels with our allies and partners over this to reassure them as it relates to our commitment to safeguard intelligence and sensitive documents, as well as ensuring our commitment to the security and partnerships that we have with these countries," said Patel.
The department spokesperson declined to comment when asked if the incident may affect the upcoming meeting between President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk Yeol.
"I will let the White House National Security Council (NSC) speak to any specific schedule or programming, but it's something that we are very much looking forward to as an administration, and again, our commitment to the ROK is ironclad," he told the press briefing.
Yoon is scheduled to make a state visit to the U.S. from April 24. He and Biden are set to hold a bilateral summit here in Washington on April 26.
John Kirby, NSC coordinator for strategic communications, later said the U.S. will continue to work closely with its allies while insisting that the classified documents, regardless of their authenticity, should not have been released to the public in the first place.
"There is no excuse for these kinds of documents to be in the public domain. They don't deserve to be in the public domain. They deserve to be protected," he told a White House press briefing.
"We have been in touch with allies and partners, relevant allies and partners," he added. "We will keep relevant allies and partners as informed as we can."
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