November 15, 2019
By Jim Garamone
U.S., South Korean Leaders Review State of Alliance
U.S. and South Korean defense officials reviewed the state of the military alliance between the two countries and charted the way ahead today in Seoul, South Korea, during the 51st annual Security Consultative Meeting.
Following their meeting, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo briefed the press on the talks. The two leaders said the discussions covered a wide range of issues, including wartime operational control, the Special Measures Agreement and other ways to enhance security cooperation between the close treaty allies.
''The United States remains fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea,'' Esper told the press. ''The U.S.-[South Korean] alliance is ironclad and I am confident our nations will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance security, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the broader Indo-Pacific region.''
The U.S. and South Korea will continue to enhance the defense capabilities of the alliance to help realize the goal of ''final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,'' Esper said.
Part and parcel of this goal is the continued enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to encourage North Korea to stop its dangerous process of building nuclear and missile technologies.
The two men addressed progress on the transition of wartime operational control. Both are in agreement with senior military officials' assessment of the future Combined Forces Command's initial operational capability. ''Overall, we agree that substantive progress has been made in the conditions-based transfer of operational control to a [South Korean] commander,'' the defense secretary said. ''There is more work to be done, however, and we remain committed to close cooperation on this topic.''
Esper and Jeong also discussed the Special Measures Agreement, which is being negotiated now. This is a type of burden-sharing agreement, and is how South Korea shares the costs of U.S. forces to defend the country. The current agreement expires at the end of the year.
The defense secretary said the agreement has greatly contributed to strengthening combined defense capabilities. ''It is crucial that we conclude the 11th SMA with increased burden sharing by [South Korea] by the end of the year,'' he said.
The two countries will continue cooperation in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterpiracy operations, and other regional problems, Esper said.
''We are also working to strengthen cooperation in the space and cyber domains to bolster our alliance's response capabilities ensuring our alliance maintains our decisive advantage on the battlefield,'' the secretary said.
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