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No change in U.S.’ nuclear umbrella commitment to S. Korea: Pentagon official

WASHINGTON/SEOUL -- A U.S. defense official on Monday stressed the United States' steady commitment to offering "extended deterrence" to South Korea, voicing concerns over North Korea's "problematic and irresponsible" behavior.

Mara Karlin, the official at the Department of Defense, made the remarks after the Pentagon announced the conclusion of the 2021 Global Posture Review (GPR) on the alignment of American forces across the globe and related issues.

The GPR came as Seoul and Washington are preparing to hold annual defense ministerial talks, called the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Seoul on Thursday. Defense Minister Suh Wook and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, will attend it.

"Our extended deterrence with our closest allies is critical, and I do not have anything to announce on changes regarding it," Karlin said, responding to a question of whether the U.S. has altered its commitment to the provision of the nuclear umbrella to the ally.

Extended deterrence refers to America's stated commitment to mobilizing a full range of military capabilities, nuclear and conventional, to defend its Asian ally against potential North Korean aggression.

Doubts have recently lingered over the U.S.' extended deterrence, amid reports that the Joe Biden administration is considering ways to reduce the use of the U.S. nuclear weapons, possibly through a "no first use" declaration.

Asked about speculation that the U.S. might be concerned more about a potential North Korean attack on the continental U.S. than on its allies' territories, Karlin stressed that Secretary Austin is looking forward to related discussions in Seoul.

"I think (the secretary) is looking forward to a productive set of discussions in terms of changes to our extended deterrence. I don't see any reason for any change on that front as well," the official said.

"On North Korea, of course, we continue to remain concerned about its problematic and irresponsible behavior. I expect that that will be a robust topic of dialogue for the secretary while he's in Seoul over the coming days," she added.

On the U.S. defense posture in Korea, Karlin portrayed it as "robust," "effective" and "smart," with no elaboration.

Meanwhile, John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson, said that at the upcoming SCM, the two sides are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including North Korean threats and the "pacing challenge that China continues to pose in the region."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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