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[SCM Press conference Q&A] ‘Clear Warning’ to North Korea… Emphasis on ‘Expansion’ of ROK-US Joint Training

U.S. reaffirms defense commitment to ROK Recent military exercise sends a strong signal to North Korea

The South Korean government's of denuclearization policy on the Korean Peninsula remains unchanged North Korea seems to be prepared for nuclear tests

[SCM Press conference Q&A] ‘Clear Warning’ to Nort

The 54th ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) held in Washington, DC, USA on the 3rd (local time) has a great significance in that it has generated more concrete outcomes than any other SCM. Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup, who co-hosted the SCM, also mentioned in a press briefing at the Korean Cultural Center, “I can assure that there is a striking difference from the past.” In fact, this SCM is significant in that it gave a ‘clear warning’ to North Korea’s threat. Above all, this year’s focus was on ‘expanding (on deterrence),’ while the key point for the ROK-US joint exercises in the past was focused on ‘continuity and maintenance’. North Korea’s ‘tactical nuclear threat,’ which was not mentioned in last year’s joint statement, first appeared along with the expression ‘nuclear attack.’ This atmosphere continued at the press conference between Minister Lee and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin after the announcement of the SCM joint statement. The bilateral ministers shared their opinion that North Korea's use of nuclear weapons should be deterred under any circumstances, and presented their stances and actions to strengthen extended deterrence against North Korea. In particular, the US reaffirmed its defense security commitments to South Korea.

The Q&A session at the joint press conference went as follows.



Do you think ROK and the US deterrent strategies are required to be revised in response of North Korea's consecutive missile threats?


Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense: The US reaffirmed its defense commitments to South Korea. We condemn North Korea's irresponsible and reckless behavior. Their acts are potentially undermining security across the region. The US will take every action possible to defend the Republic of Korea.



Is the ROK government considering tactical nuclear redeployment on the Korean Peninsula?


Lee Jong Sup, ROK Defense Minister: In regards with the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons by the United States, the ROK government's denuclearization policy on the Korean Peninsula remains the same. Also, we are not considering the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons.



Do you think the current extended deterrence plan would be effective as the threat from North Korea is growing? North Korea is repeatedly violating the 9•19 inter-Korean military agreement. Do you think it will be useful?


Austin: Of course, he inter-Korean military agreement has been effective. I would like to point out that recent military exercises have focused on enhancing our readiness for extended deterrence. The ROK and US are still conducting the largest-scale training in recent years with more than 240 fighter jets. All of these efforts have been planned to ensure the defense capabilities of the Korean Peninsula. We have lately redeployed or deployed strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula. The fifth-generation fighter jets have been deployed and the aircraft carriers have been also redeployed, which I think also serves as a very strong message (toward North Korea). There may be concerns about the need to enhance readiness, but we will respond effectively.



What specific actions does the US seek to deter North Korea?


Austin: We definitely would not like anyone to choose to use nuclear weapons. Recently, North Korea has been launching several short-range ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), all of which potentially undermine national security. While there is a possibility that they (North Korea) will not stop such provocative actions, we will be dedicated to ensuring that North Korea neither use nuclear weapons nor attack the ROK.



What strategic assets are planned to be deployed on the Korean Peninsula in order to deter North Korea's provocations? Do you think the North Korean government is about to conduct nuclear tests? Would the Chinese government play a constructive role in preventing such action?


Austin: Recently, it has been observed that fifth-generation fighter jets and strategic assets have been deployed from time to time. Currently, there aren’t any plans to deploy strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula, but we will come up with a message for deterrence (against North Korea) through cooperation with Japan as well as with ROK. So although there are no new all-time strategic assets to be deployed, assets will be seen coming and going on a regular basis.


Lee: It is evaluated that North Korea has already been ready for nuclear tests. However, it is challenging to predict when it will be undertaken because North Korea seems to consider its political schedules as well. It is thought that China basically has influence over North Korea, but given the past cases of conducting nuclear tests regardless of China's intentions, it is difficult to suppose that China’s influence over North Korea would be absolute.



Deterrence against North Korea will become effective only when the ROK-US alliance practically works. Have there been enough discussions about influential deterrence measures beyond the basic rhetoric?


Austin: We think that our messages for deterrence against North Korea have been powerful and effective. I would like to mention again the large-scale military exercises. We are focusing on making it clear that anyone never attacks the ROK and reaffirming our security commitments. We are also dedicated to deterring anyone from using nuclear weapons. To this end, we will cooperate to strengthen and enhance such capabilities.



There might be views that deterrence against North Korea is such a failure….


Austin: No way. It is thought to be actually deterring an (North Korea’s) attack on the ROK, and be also effective in preventing (its) attacks on the Korean Peninsula and the US mainland.



I have learned that the operational plan is being revised as the North Korean nuclear threat grows How does it progress and what is the focus?


Lee: The key (of the question) is how long it takes to completely revise the operational plan, but it is undesirable to publicly confirm the time by which the plan will be finally completed, because that a plan is completed doesn’t mean that it is the end, but it needs to be continuously supplemented and developed. However, we are constantly trying to update it. I could not give a specific answer, as there is a limit to the detailed explanation of the plan.

By Chae-Mu, Im < >

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