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S. Korea, US to hold high-level defense talks on alliance deterrence against N. Korea

Full-scale operation of THAAD battery, trilateral security cooperation will be key agenda topics for KIDD

Aug. 12, 2022 - 15:00 By Ji Da-gyum
South Korea and the United States will discuss how to bolster the alliance’s deterrence and readiness against North Korea at an upcoming high-level defense talk, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced Friday.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the US Defense Department will hold the 21st Korea-US Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) between Aug. 16 and 17 in Seoul with the participation of key defense and foreign affairs officials.

Deputy Minister for National Defense Policy Heo Tae-keun will lead the South Korean delegation for the first time since his appointment this month. Siddharth Mohandas, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, will represent the US side.

The two sides will discuss a wide range of alliance issues, including “policy coordination in deterring and responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry in a press statement.

South Korea and the US will try to figure out ways to enhance the viability of the US extended deterrence in accordance with the agreements at the May 21 South Korea-US summit.

Specifically, both sides will have further concrete discussions on the reactivation of the vice ministerial-level Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) and agenda topics for the meeting, a senior ministry official -- who requested to remain anonymous -- said during a closed-door briefing.

The South Korean and US defense chiefs tentatively agreed to hold an EDSCG meeting in September during an in-person meeting held in late July in Washington. The last meeting of the EDSCG between South Korean and US vice ministers of foreign affairs and defense -- which was launched in 2016 -- was held in January 2018.

The deployment of the US strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula will be discussed in detail at the upcoming KIDD, the unnamed senior official explained. At the May 21 summit, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden previously reaffirmed the US’ commitment to deploying US strategic assets “in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary.”

The KIDD will be a venue to discuss follow-up measures to the agreements at May 21 summit and prepare for an annual, defense ministerial-level Security Consultative Meeting that is expected to be held this autumn, the unnamed senior official explained.

In addition, South Korean and US high-level officials will exchange views on how to meet conditions for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control.

South Korea and the US plan to conduct an assessment of the South Korean military’s Full Operational Capability during the upcoming combined military exercise that is scheduled to be held between Aug. 22 and Sep. 1. The FOC assessment is a required process to transfer wartime operational control to South Korea.

The FOC assessment is the second part of the three-phase system to evaluate the South Korean military’s capabilities to command the Future Combined Forces Command or F-CFC. But it has been postponed mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic after both sides completed the first stage in 2019.

South Korea and the US will also talk about how to upgrade their bilateral ties to a “global comprehensive strategic alliance,” the source said. To that end, both sides will have an in-depth discussion on ways to advance cooperation in the field of cyber security, defense and science technology, defense industry and outer space.

Other topics for discussion include trilateral security coordination among South Korea, the US and Japan as well as South Korea’s plan to expeditiously repair and refurbish the military base that hosts the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to ensure its full-scale operation.

A KIDD is a high-level policy consultative meeting between the South Korean and US defense authorities that encompasses defense dialogue mechanisms.

The consultative meeting has been hosted twice a year since 2012 after it was established in accordance with the agreement at the 43rd Security Consultative Meeting in 2011.

But this year, Seoul and Washington have agreed to exceptionally hold a KIDD once for reasons, including the postponement in appointing South Korea’s deputy minister for national defense policy and prolonged war in Ukraine, the unnamed senior official said.