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American Forces Press Service

Panetta: U.S., South Korea Strengthen Alliance

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2012 – U.S. and South Korean militaries will continue their close cooperation against wide-ranging global security challenges and strengthen their cooperation in space and cyberspace, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

In a joint news conference after the 44th U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative meeting here, Panetta and South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin affirmed that the nearly 59-year-old alliance will remain a cornerstone of stability in Northeast Asia into the future.

At the meeting between the civilian and military leadership of the two defense establishments, the defense leaders led delegations that included senior defense and foreign affairs officials. This is the fourth time the two defense leaders have met, and the second time they’ve led the annual security meeting.

The United States and South Korea “will continue to enhance close alliance cooperation to address wide-ranging global security challenges, including through stabilization and reconstruction efforts, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counterproliferation,” Panetta told reporters.

“Minister Kim and I agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation with respect to protection of space and cyberspace domains,” he added. “We must ensure that this alliance stays ahead of the cyber threat.”

The secretary also announced the signing of terms of reference for bilateral military space cooperation. The document, he said, formally establishes a U.S.-South Korea defense working group that will address space policy, architecture, training and personnel exchange.

“The new defense strategy of the United States makes clear that, as the military emerges from a decade of war, we will rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” Panetta said. “Because of its importance for global security [and] its importance to global prosperity in the 21st century, a stronger U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance is a critical part of this rebalancing effort.”

The secretary said he assured Kim that the United States stands fully committed to South Korea’s security.

“Make no mistake, we will provide the forces and the military capabilities needed to help maintain security on the Korean peninsula,” he said. “And we are committed to deepening and adapting our defense cooperation to meet evolving security challenges in the region.”

Discussions today focused on North Korea, he added.

“North Korea remains a serious threat to both of our nations and a serious threat to regional and global stability,” Panetta said. “Over the past year, North Korea has continued its pattern of defiance and provocative actions, including the unsuccessful test of a ballistic missile capability.”

“Minister Kim and I reaffirmed that North Korean aggression or military provocation will not be tolerated,” he continued, “and that we will continue working shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate our combined resolve.”

The United States and South Korea are committed to maintaining their close consultation, Panetta added, to develop comprehensive alliance capabilities to counter North Korean threats.

It has been nearly 60 years since the Korean War ended and the U.S.-South Korea alliance was born, the secretary said.

“For 60 years, our two countries have stood side by side and forged security and prosperity for our nations,” Panetta added. “We have been tested time and time again, and we have met every challenge.”

The reality, he said, “is that over the last 60 years, we have preserved peace in the peninsula and in that region, [and] as a result, today this alliance is stronger than ever.”

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