S. Korea, U.S. vow continued sanctions enforcement against N. Korea, push for change through diplomacy

SEOUL-- South Korea and the United States reaffirmed their commitment on Friday to implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea until its denuclearization, agreeing to strive to expedite diplomatic efforts to bring about changes, Seoul's defense ministry said.

They made the pledge during the 16th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD), which took place in Seoul for two days from Thursday.

The biannual meeting took place as North Korea test-fired short-range projectiles, including ballistic missiles, in recent months. Pyongyang has carried out 10 rounds of major weapons tests so far this year, with the latest one taking place earlier this month.

"Exchanging their assessment on North Korea's recent activities, the two sides vowed to continue to monitor the situation closely ... They also shared the understanding that the implementation of U.S. Security Council resolutions is crucial until North Korea abides by its international obligations towards denuclearization," the ministry said in a release.

Given the current security circumstances on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. also vowed its continued provision of extended deterrence to South Korea, according to the ministry, which refers to its commitment to use a full range of military capabilities, including nuclear, conventional and missile defense assets.

But the allies, at the same time, acknowledged some achievements through last year's inter-Korean military agreement in terms of helping ease military tensions on the peninsula and build trust, the ministry said, adding that Seoul and Washington vowed to work closely to fully implement the pact.

During their session on the conditions-based transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul, the two sides confirmed that preparations have been underway without a hitch and agreed to further take action to meet the conditions.

The allies are eying 2022, or thereabouts, as a target date for the OPCON transfer, which calls for a South Korean general to head the Combined Forces Command, with a U.S. general taking on supportive roles.

The conditions for the transfer are Seoul's capability to lead the allies' combined defense mechanism, its capacity for initial responses to the North's nuclear and missile threats and a stable security environment on the peninsula and in the region.

In order to check if Seoul is on course to meet those conditions, the two sides conducted the initial operational capability (IOC) test in August during their combined military exercises. The results will be reported to their defense ministers at their planned meeting due later this year.

The two sides also agreed to push for necessary follow-up measures, such as drawing up related documents based upon the Alliance Guiding Principles, which the allies formulated in October last year, following the OPCON transition.

Also on the table during the meeting were the results of their first round of negotiations on a fresh Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that will determine how much Seoul should pay for the stationing of the 28,500 American troops in the country.

"The two sides reviewed the results of the discussion and shared the assessment that their negotiating teams had 'constructive' discussions," the defense ministry said.

Following two days of negotiations that ended on Wednesday, Seoul and Washington agreed to work toward a "reasonable and fair" sharing of costs, though a foreign ministry official here said it would be far from easy for the deal to be clinched within this year.

The next round of talks will be held in the U.S. in October, with the current deal to expire at the end of this year.

During the Security Policy Initiative session, the partners discussed ways to further deepen and expand the alliance and exchanged opinions on their future vision, according to the ministry.

There have been signs of a rift in the alliance following South Korea's decision last month to terminate a military information-sharing pact with Japan following Tokyo's imposition of export curbs on its neighbor in apparent retaliation against the South Korean top court's rulings on wartime forced labor.

"The two sides vowed to continue to communicate and cooperate closely to maintain and strengthen the joint combined posture based upon the alliance, which is the linchpin of the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia," the ministry said in a release.

Deputy Defense Minister Chung Suk-hwan represented South Korea, and Heino Klinck, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, led the U.S. delegation.

Launched in 2011, KIDD is a comprehensive defense meeting between the allies that integrates a set of consultative mechanisms, such as the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee and the Security Policy Initiative.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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