By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea and the United States signed an agreement Monday to institutionalize a joint committee on the use of extended deterrence capability on the Korean Peninsula in the case of war.
The terms of reference (TOR) was signed by senior defense officials from both nations during the Security Policy Initiative (SPI) meeting in Seoul. The agreement comes as animosity spikes on the peninsula in the aftermath of North Korea’s artillery attack on a South Korean island near the West Sea border last month.
Tension will remain high this week, as South Korea began a week of live-fire drills off all its coasts Monday. The exercises will be held at 27 places through Dec. 19. They will not take place near the contested West Sea border with the North, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chang Kwang-il, deputy defense minister for policy, represented the South at Monday’s SPI meeting, while Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, led the U.S. delegation.
The Extended Deterrence Policy Committee will serve as a cooperation mechanism to enhance the effectiveness of extended deterrence capability to be mainly provided by the United States, including a nuclear umbrella.
The establishment of the committee had already been agreed upon by the defense ministers of the two countries at the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Washington, D.C., in October.
“The committee is a permanent body through which both nations are to hold meetings at least twice a year to come up with and evaluate measures to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction threat,” an official at the Ministry of National Defense said.
Under the extended deterrence pledge, the United States is to provide tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, and conventional strike and missile defense capabilities to defend South Korea in the case of an attack by North Korea. It is the first time for the U.S. to create such a committee with a non-NATO ally.
The Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed two marines and two civilians, marking the first attack by the North on a civilian area on the South’s soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.