North Korea

US, S Korea elevate ties to global alliance amid security challenges


Both sides vow to ‘expand activities’ regionally and globally in protecting democratic values.

US, S Korea elevate ties to global alliance amid security challenges

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defence Minister Shin Won-sik attend a welcome ceremony before their annual security meeting at the Defence Ministry in Seoul, South Korea on Nov. 13, 2023.

The United States and South Korea have agreed to further progress their military alliance into a global partnership – an expansion aimed to address not only threats from North Korea but also broader challenges that impact regional and global peace. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik emphasized during a press conference in Seoul on Monday that their alliance is fundamentally global in nature, dedicated to upholding democratic values worldwide. 

“Going forward, the Republic of Korea and the United States will overcome the pressures of extensive geopolitical dynamics, safeguard democratic values, and maintain a rules-based order,” the ministers said in a ‘Defense Vision’ statement Monday, referring to South Korea’s formal name, after the annual Security Consultative Meeting in South Korea’s capital.

“The ROK-U.S. alliance will actively seek a cooperative agenda to lead discussions and expand activities in the region and around the world, aligned with our common values and goals,” the statement said. It highlighted that the bilateral alliance was essential in protecting the values of freedom, peace and prosperity.

The alliance also aims to take a more proactive role in contributing to regional security, including strengthening defense cooperation with Southeast Asian countries and Pacific island nations, added the statement, which also stressed on the security cooperation with Japan to protect democratic values and deal with regional challenges.

The evolution of the bilateral alliance into a global coalition is a strategic and timely response to the increasing complexities of global challenges. With China’s growing clout, coupled with Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war, a strengthened and more globally-oriented alliance becomes crucial in realizing America’s global strategy.

South Korea, a U.S. ally, has been indirectly supplying ammunition to Ukraine through intermediary nations, including the U.S., and has stood with Washington to criticize the Hamas attack on Israel.

The primary role of the alliance, however, is expected to remain concentrated on addressing the growing threat posed by North Korea to global peace, underscoring Pyongyang’s increasingly concerning actions and capabilities.

North Korea was the “most fundamental and urgent threat” to both the U.S. and South Korea, the statement said.

The statement came as South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told its lawmakers in the National Assembly earlier this month that Russia has acquired over 1 million artillery shells from the North since August.

The development demonstrates the strengthening relationship between Pyongyang and Moscow, accentuated by the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia September.

The allies reaffirmed the “importance of deterring strategic attacks and aggression by North Korea and other hostile actors in the region through ongoing efforts to strengthen extended deterrence,” where the alliance, according to the statement, will expand the scale and scope of combined exercises and training, including combined joint live-fire drills.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang is preparing for what is anticipated to be its third “satellite” launch. Previous attempts by North Korea to send satellites into orbit in May and August were unsuccessful, and seen constituting as a significant setback for Kim.

Such a launch would contravene United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from using ballistic missile technology for any launches. North Korea’s past satellite launches have contributed to advancements in its long-range missile capabilities.

Recent tests of North Korean long-range missiles have shown the theoretical capacity to reach the U.S. mainland.

Edited by Elaine Chan and Taejun Kang. 

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