ROK Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III held a defense ministerial meeting on January 31, 2023 in Seoul. This was the fourth meeting between the two leaders and the first meeting of 2023, which marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance.
During the meeting, the two leaders strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) continued provocations and violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, including its missile launches and recent drone incursions. They also affirmed that the ROK-U.S. Alliance, along with the international community, will continue to take a strong stance against any further provocations by the DPRK.
The Minister and the Secretary jointly reaffirmed measures to enhance the implementation of U.S. extended deterrence to underscore the U.S. security commitment to the ROK. As agreed upon during the ROK-U.S. Summit in May 2022 and the 54th Security Consultative Meeting, the two leaders emphasized that the two nations will continue to bolster the Alliance’s capabilities to deter and respond to DPRK nuclear and missile threats, as well as to enhance information sharing, joint planning and execution, and Alliance consultation mechanisms.
The two leaders reaffirmed that the two sides will make substantive progress in completing the revision of the Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) before this year’s SCM.
The ROK Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense will hold the Deterrence Strategy Committee Table-top Exercise (DSC TTX) in February, in order to facilitate Alliance discussions on deterrence and response options to deal with the DPRK nuclear threat.
Furthermore, the two sides concurred that the recent combined air exercises, conducted in late 2022 and involving U.S. strategic bombers, demonstrated a range of deterrence capabilities of the U.S.-ROK Alliance. The two leaders additionally pledged to closely cooperate in order to continue to deploy U.S. strategic assets in a timely and coordinated manner in the future.
The two leaders also pledged to further expand and bolster the level and scale of this year’s combined exercises and training. To this end, the two leaders concurred on the need to take into account changes in the security environment, including the DPRK’s recent steps with respect to its nuclear and missile programs, to strengthen combined exercises and training, including the upcoming combined bilateral exercises. Both leaders agreed to expand the scope and scale of combined field training exercises and to conduct a large-scale combined joint fires demonstration this year.
Minister Lee and Secretary Austin also discussed measures to strengthen regional security cooperation including ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation. The two leaders committed to following up on developing specific courses of action to facilitate trilateral sharing of missile warning data, as agreed by the three countries’ leaders at the November 2022 Phnom Penh Summit. Minister Lee and Secretary Austin also concurred that this topic would be addressed at a future meeting of the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT). To this end, they agreed to hold Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) at the earliest opportunity to discuss concrete measures on how to strengthen security cooperation among the three nations.
Based on a shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, the two leaders pledged to work towards aligning the respective U.S. and ROK Indo-Pacific strategies and exploring avenues of cooperation with partners in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Finally, in light of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and the Armistice Agreement, the two leaders resolved to continue to strengthen the Alliance and ensure it contributes to security in the region and around the world. The Minister and the Secretary also pledged to strengthen solidarity with United Nations Command Member States that share core values with the ROK and U.S. to promote security on the Korean Peninsula. In this light, Secretary Austin welcomed the ROK’s proposal for a ROK-UNC Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting in 2023.