South Korea and the United States are scheduled to hold high-level talks later this month to discuss how to boost coordination between the two countries and strengthen joint deterrence to counter potential threats from North Korea, Seoul’s defense ministry announced Friday.
South Korean and U.S. officials “are scheduled to hold the seventh round of the senior-level Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) from April 14-15 in Washington,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted Nah Seung-yong, a ministry spokesman, as saying. “Major pending security issues are to be discussed, including coordination against threats and possible provocations by North Korea.”
Launched in 2011 for in-depth talks on issues of mutual interest, the KIDD framework includes four committees consisting of officials from Seoul and Washington to discuss various topics, such as joint security policy, forming a strategic alliance and devising deterrence policy against North Korea's nuclear threats. During the annual dialogue, officials also talk about ways to counter Pyongyang’s missile capabilities.
The South Korean defense ministry also announced that U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will visit Seoul next week for talks on security issues.
During his three-day visit, starting April 9, Carter “is scheduled to meet with South Korea's Defense Minister Han Min-koo to discuss key security issues including how to strengthen joint deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missiles threat,” the ministry said in a statement, obtained by Yonhap.
Last week, Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he had “productive conversations” with his South Korean counterpart in Seoul over the building of an integrated air and missile-defense system. However, a South Korean ministry spokesman told Yonhap that the mooted system is not on the agenda for upcoming discussions between Seoul and Washington.
South Korea and the U.S. have been conducting annual joint military drills for years, arguing that the drills are defensive in nature and are conducted to test Seoul’s readiness to counter any North Korean threat. In 2014, the U.S. sent about 5,200 troops for a two-week Key Resolve drill and about 7,500 troops for the Foal Eagle exercise with South Korea.
Pyongyang had said earlier this year that it was willing to call off nuclear tests if the U.S. agreed to cancel its annual drills with the South. The U.S government rejected the proposal and urged Pyongyang to “immediately cease all threats … and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization.”