By Kang Seung-woo
South Korean and U.S. chairmen of their respective Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reaffirmed Thursday that the Korea-United States alliance is stronger than ever.
In addition, they agreed that both countries will firmly respond to any provocation by North Korea, in accordance with the South Korea-United States bilateral counter-provocation plan, signed in March.
Gen. Jung Seung-jo and Gen. Martin Dempsey convened the 37th Military Committee Meeting (MCM) via secure video teleconference instead of meeting each other, given the current conditions on the Korean Peninsula.
Dempsey stressed the firm and unwavering commitment of the United States to the defense of the Republic of Korea, using all available military capabilities, including forces based on the Korean Peninsula, its nuclear umbrella, and conventional strike and missile defense capabilities.
Jung echoed the South's commitment to strengthening the level of its capabilities and enhancing the level of military cooperation in the region, in response to North Korea's ongoing pattern of defiance and provocative actions, which pose a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia, and international peace and security.
After its underground nuclear test on Feb. 12, the North had expanded U.N. sanctions imposed on it, and incensed by the punishment has threatened nuclear strikes against the South and the United States.
Meanwhile, the transition of wartime operational command (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul is scheduled for December 2015, but there are growing calls for a delay after Pyongyang began to continually ramp up the tensions on the peninsula.
However, the two countries made it clear that preparations for the transition are on track according to the implementation plan. They agreed to refine the specifics of this and report to the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in October, aimed at ensuring a resolute and enduring combined defense posture.
Both generals said the discussions in the meeting have made a significant contribution to enhancing the South Korea-United States alliance and strengthening the military relations between the two countries.
"This meeting is an important interaction between our senior military leaders to continuously enhance the effectiveness of the South Korea-United States alliance management and strengthen the military relations between the two countries," said a Korean JCS official.
"It also affirms the robust readiness posture of the two countries concerning the current situation on the Korean Peninsula."