Seoul, Dec 2 (EFE).- The defense heads of South Korea and the United States agreed Thursday to update their joint contingency plans in case of a war with North Korea amid an armed race sparked by Pyongyang’s recent weapons tests.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook for the annual Security Consultation Meeting (SCM) during which they decided to rewrite their joint war plan, originally written a decade ago to deter North Korea.
The new agreement vows to review and update the plan focused on conventional attacks to deal with a North Korean arsenal.
Pyongyang has modernized its weaponry with sophisticated nuclear-capable missiles capable that can also be launched from submarines.
A joint statement issued after the Security Consultative Meeting emphasized the American commitment to maintaining the current level of 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Austin told reporters after the meeting that the US and South Korea had reaffirmed “our shared assessment” that North Korea continued to “advance its missile and weapons programs that are increasingly destabilizing the regional security.”
However, he stressed that the two allies were committed to a “diplomatic approach” to deal with the North.
Since President Joe Biden came to power, Washington has urged Pyongyang to reactivate denuclearization talks, stalled since 2019.
However, the North Korean regime has rejected the offer, alleging that the US maintained its “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.
The two allies also made progress on transferring operational control (OPCON) to South Korea if the war broke out.
South Korea has been seeking to gain control of OPCON during the war even as Seoul has operational control of the joint troops in peacetime.
Austin said they would issue new guidelines in 2022 that would be the second phase of a three-stage process to verify the full operational capability (FOC) of South Korea in the event of war.
For the first, the two allies have reaffirmed in their joint defense statement the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait without mentioning China.
It indicates that the US has been insisting on the issue when it comes to joint efforts with its regional allies in the face of the growing Chinese influence in the region and beyond.
“The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of the rules-based international order and adherence to international rules and norms, including those of freedom of navigation and overflight,” the statement said.
The joint statement also reaffirms a plan to return parts of the US military’s Yongsan Garrison in the capital by early next year, located in the heart of the South Korean capital. EFE