S. Korea, US agree to set N. Korean nuclear deterrence policy by 2014
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States agreed Wednesday to identify specific types of nuclear threats by North Korea and map out joint deterrence strategies tailored to each threat type by 2014.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his American counterpart, Leon Panetta, reached the agreement in the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Pentagon at a time of continued military threats from the communist North under its new leader, Kim Jong-un.
"They reaffirmed that any North Korean aggression or military provocation is not to be tolerated and that the U.S. and the Republic of Korea would work shoulder-to-shoulder to demonstrate our combined resolve," the joint communique said, referring to South Korea's official name. "They also urged North Korea to cease all activities related to its nuclear program immediately, and to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."
In particular, they agreed to develop joint deterrence strategies tailored to specific types of threats posed by North Korea's missiles and nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction by 2014 through the "Extended Deterrence Policy Committee" between the two countries.
Panetta reiterated the U.S. commitment to provide and strengthen extended deterrence for the South, using its full range of military capabilities, including "the U.S. nuclear umbrella, conventional strike, and missile defense capabilities."
About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, and the U.S. guarantees a nuclear "umbrella" in case of an atomic attack, but calls for customized deterrence strategies have grown as Seoul prepares to retake wartime operational command from Washington in December 2015.
The Combined Forces Command (CFC), which has long overseen joint operations of the allies, will be dismantled under the transition plan, so the two sides will form a joint working group to establish an alternative system to "continue to refine the future command structure and maximize its military efficiency."
They also stressed the transition should be "implemented methodically" and that the combined defense posture remains "strong and seamless."
The latest agreement came as some in the South question whether the two allies will be able to carry out joint military actions as effectively as before once the CFC is dissolved, and a looser command structure exists between South Korean troops and U.S. Forces Korea.
Kim said the two sides plan to form a working-group later this year to draft a new model for an alternative joint operation body by the first half of next year, Kim said.
"There have been discussions about how to utilize expertise accumulated under the CFC structure even after the transition of wartime OPCON," Kim told reporters after the meeting. "South Korean forces will play a leading role and the U.S. forces will play a supporting role. The issue is how to form a decision making body within the structure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea."