Senior South Korean leaders and U.S. defense officials met in Seoul Wednesday for two-day talks, seeking to “firm up the combined defense posture” of the two nations, said deputy Yoo Jeh-seung, Seoul's deputy minister for policy at the South Korea's Ministry of National Defense, the Agence France-Presse reported. The talks between the officials were in response to the possibility of an impending North Korean rocket launch and subsequent nuclear test.
"[This] carries special importance when North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are growing," Yoo said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
U.S. officials involved in the talks included Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, and Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy. The chief U.S. diplomat to the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program also arrived in South Korea Tuesday, according to AFP, and was expected to join the discussions.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the ruling communist Workers' Party of Korea Oct. 10, North Korea had previously said it was ready to launch multiple satellites aboard long-range rockets, the Associated Press reported. If conducted, the launches could result in an international standoff, as South Korea, the U.S. and their allies consider any such launch to be a disguised ballistic missile test, which violates UN resolutions. There have not been any physical signs that North Korea has been preparing for the launch, but this month a director of North Korea’s space agency raised concerns when he said that the world will "clearly see a series of satellites soaring into the sky at times and locations determined" by the Workers' Party. Just one day later, the head of the national atomic agency said that North Korea’s main nuclear weapons were fully operational.
North Korea has claimed that it has already built a nuclear warhead small enough to be loaded on a long-range missile that has the capability to threaten the U.S., the AP reported. While analysts are reportedly doubtful of that claim, North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, and analysts believe that a fourth could increase the country’s chances of creating a miniaturized warhead.