US, South Korea Assess Defense Cooperation, Focus on Indo-Pacific Region

US, South Korea assess State of Alliance, ready to accept new challenges in Indo-Pacific

China and North Korea have made the security environment in the Indo-Pacific a more complex one, which has prompted South Korea and the US to prepare a new strategy to counter threat posed by the two Nuclear Powerful States in the region.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III recently met South Korean Minister of National Defense Suh Wook in Seoul to discuss various aspects of bilateral defense ties, with a special emphasize on the Indo-Pacific. After taking part in the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting between the two friendly nations, Austin and Suh announced that their alliance would remain solid, as both Seoul and Washington DC were fully prepared to respond to new capabilities, challenges and new conditions.

It may be noted that the US and South Korea concentrated only on deterring North Korean aggression in the past. However, the growing activities of China, Norh Korea and Russia in the region have prompted them to change their tactics. Speaking at a media conference in Seoul, Austin has said that the Joe Biden Administration considers South Korea, a rising power, an important ally in Indo-Pacific that could help the US ensure stability in the Korean peninsula and other parts of the region.

US South Korea military drill
US South Korea military drill Reuters

The senior US official also said that his meeting with Suh covered a variety of issues, stressing: "We discussed a wide range of topics, including our unity in the face of the threat from North Korea, and our progress in our bilateral alliances, readiness and training exercises, and the ways that this alliance contributes to stability throughout the Indo-Pacific." Austin added: "We also reaffirmed our shared assessment that (North Korea) is continuing to advance its missile and weapons programs, which is increasingly destabilizing for regional security."

Meanwhile, he assured the Global Community that South Korea and the US would remain committed to a diplomatic approach to North Korea. At the same time, he claimed that a strong deterrent posture would only allow the diplomatic track to work. "We continue to call upon (North Korea) to engage in dialogue, but we also discuss measures to enhance our combined deterrence posture and to defend against the full range of threats."

North Korea test-fires newly developed hypersonic missile
North Korea test-fires newly developed hypersonic missile Hwasong-8 Reuters

For his part, Suh said that the South Korean military had taken part in the evacuation of innocent people from Kabul in August by sending C-130s and personnel. He further said that his country would cooperate with the International Community to ensure global peace and stability.

The Korean peninsula is considered as one of the most volatile places in the world where conflicts between North Korea and South Korea (and Japan) could worsen the security situation. The S has been trying to normalize the situation there with the help of South Korea and Japan for long. Although Seoul and Washington DC want to resolve the crisis through peaceful negotiation, they have also discussed the "fight-tonight" readiness of the combined force, keeping in mind the aggressive foreign policy of North Korea and China. "The minister and I also agreed to conduct a full operational capability assessment of our future combined forces command during next fall's combined command post training. This represents an important task toward meeting the conditions necessary for (operational control) transition," stressed Austin.