Moon says Seoul-Washington-Tokyo military alliance is crucial

10-Aug-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Visiting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told President Moon Jae-in that Washington was hoping to see an early resumption of denuclearisation talks between North Korea and the United States in spite of repeated North Korean missile tests and negotiation delays.

Presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung said the meeting also covered the significance of maintaining a trilateral military intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea, Japan and the United States as Seoul already said the country was reviewing “all options” in the ongoing bitter trade dispute with Tokyo.

“During Esper’s 30-minute meeting with President Moon, no issues relating to South Korea’s defense cost sharing were raised; however, they’ve reached a consensus for the necessity to keep trilateral cooperation and discussed various issues on multiple fronts,” Ko told reporters in a briefing, Friday afternoon at Cheong Wa Dae.

Citing Japan’s recent decision to remove South Korea from its list of trusted trading partners, Seoul said it was planning to nullify the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is crucial in fending off North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The deal is automatically renewed annually on August 24.

Regarding the North Korean nuclear conflict issue, Esper appreciated President Moon’s role in brokering the June historic encounter between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as the encounter provided a fresh impetus both Washington and Pyongyang in terms of breaking an impasse in talks aimed at scrapping the North’s nuclear programme.

In a statement, Cheong Wa Dae said President Moon asked Esper for continued backing on his peace drive on the Korean Peninsula by making a visible progress in the denuclearisation dialogue.

Hours before his visit to the presidential office, Esper held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo at the defense ministry’s headquarters in Yongsan, Seoul. minister Jeong told Esper Japan was threatening the lynchpin of the trilateral security alliance among South Korea, the United States and Japan by intensifying economic retaliation against the South.

“Tokyo’s export restrictions and its recent decision to remove South Korea from the whitelist of countries receiving trade benefits are causing a negative impact on the trilateral security partnerships and the bilateral relation between the two Asian countries,” Jeong said in his opening remarks during a meeting with Esper.

The South Korean defense chief said it was “very critical” for Seoul and Washington to discuss the security situation and defense alliance on the peninsula at this very “grave security circumstance.”

“North Korea recently fired new types of short-range ballistic missiles and projectiles multiple times, and even unveiled a submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles. This does little to contribute to easing inter-Korean military tension,” Jeong said, according to press pool reports.

The defense chief also underlined the need to tighten defense partnerships between Seoul and Washington, as China and Russia are also posing growing security threats. “A Russian military plane violated South Korea’s airspace twice near the easternmost islets of Dokdo in the East Sea, and China and Russia even carried out their first joint military drill in the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone.”

Esper responded by saying the security alliance between South Korea and the US is the cornerstone of peace not just on the peninsula, but in Northeast Asia.

“I come here today to reaffirm that the US and the Republic of Korea alliance is ironclad,” Esper said.

Foreign and defense ministries declined to comment on additional details over Esper’s meeting with Jeong and his separate brief meeting with Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha, though it’s been thought Esper may have asked South Korea’s possible participation of the US-led maritime security initiative in the Gulf Region.

As part of the drive, Washington is requesting its allies, including South Korea, to send a warship to the Strait of Hormuz for the safety of commercial shipping in waters off Iran and Yemen. Also, Seoul was increasingly pressured to bear more of the costs of stationing US troops here, as Washington is highly likely to urge the South to take on much more of the burden for the defense cost sharing next year.

Esper, on his first international trip since being confirmed as a defense secretary, arrived in South Korea, Thursday evening, and headed for Washington, D.C., via Osan Air Base, Friday evening. South Korea was Esper’s last stop on a trip that has also included visits to Australia, Japan and Mongolia.


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