The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) held the 22nd Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) from April 11-12, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, Dr. Ely Ratner, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for East Asia, Dr. Siddharth Mohandas, led the U.S. delegation. Deputy Minister for National Defense Policy (DEPMIN), Dr. Heo Tae-keun, led the ROK delegation. Key senior U.S. and ROK defense and foreign affairs officials also participated. In addition, DASD for Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Policy, Mr. Richard Johnson, and DASD Mohandas together co-chaired the Deterrence Strategy Committee (DSC) session of the KIDD with DEPMIN Heo.
During the Security Policy Initiative (SPI), both sides reaffirmed the shared U.S. and ROK goal of the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and pledged that the Alliance would continue to strengthen its combined defense posture and capabilities to defend the ROK as well as deter conflict on the Peninsula. Both sides acknowledged that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to diversify its delivery systems and advance its nuclear capability following unprecedented missile testing in 2022 and continued provocations in 2023. The leaders committed to responding to DPRK provocations that undermine regional peace and stability through close and coordinated bilateral responses that demonstrate the strength of the Alliance. They also reaffirmed the importance of full implementation by the international community of all United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions.
Additionally, both sides reiterated the need to strengthen combined exercises and training and recognized the importance of returning to large-scale field exercises. To this effect, the leaders assessed that the Freedom Shield 23 (FS23) exercise — which was held in March of this year — showcased Alliance readiness and capabilities. They also concurred on the need to conduct practical combined exercises and trainings during the latter half of the year. Furthermore, the two sides emphasized that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime.
Considering the latest DPRK missile provocations, the leaders recognized the importance of combined readiness training and the Alliance’s missile defense architecture for defending the ROK people as well as U.S. and ROK deployed forces. They also assessed that the recent training event involving the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery contributed to the Alliance’s missile defense. The two sides also discussed the ROK Government’s plans to establish a combined joint multi-purpose live-fire training complex to significantly improve the training conditions of both nations, as well as ROK efforts to ensure routine and unfettered access to the U.S. THAAD site.
On science and technology cooperation, both sides recognized the need to modernize the Alliance in order to adapt to the evolving security environment and prepare for future challenges. To this effect, the two delegations pledged to continue efforts to strengthen science and technology cooperation while reinvigorating existing consultation mechanisms.
Both leaders also commended the ongoing progress being made through the Cyber Cooperation Working Group (CCWG) and Space Cooperation Working Group (SCWG). In particular, they expressed support towards developing a bilateral U.S.-ROK cyber exercise to build cyber capabilities and applauded ongoing efforts to conduct a U.S.-ROK Space Cooperation table-top exercise (TTX) later this year.
During the Conditions-based Operational Control (OPCON) Transition Working Group (COTWG), both sides acknowledged the progress made towards the transition of wartime OPCON to the Future Combined Forces Command (F-CFC) and reaffirmed a mutual commitment to meeting the three conditions under the bilaterally approved Conditions-based OPCON Transition Plan (COTP) and to strengthening Alliance combined defense capabilities. In particular, both leaders concurred on acquiring bilaterally approved levels of capabilities and systems, before recommending Full Operational Capability (FOC) Certification to the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).
During the Executive Session, ASD Ratner and DEPMIN Heoled discussions on the increasingly complex regional and global security environment while reaffirming the importance of adhering to a rules-based international order. The two leaders also affirmed the shared U.S. and ROK commitment to maintaining peace and stability, lawful unimpeded commerce, and international norms such as freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful use of the seas in the Indo-Pacific region — including the South China Sea and beyond. The two leaders also reinforced the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and pledged to continue promoting defense and security cooperation throughout the region.
In addition, both delegations pledged to work closely together to implement the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy and the ROK Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region in order to promote regional peace and stability. They also discussed outcomes from the inaugural meeting of the Regional Cooperation Working Group (RCWG) in March 2023 and pledged to jointly seek measures to implement close cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Pacific Island countries.
On trilateral cooperation with Japan, both leaders noted that trilateral cooperation among the three countries is critical for advancing shared security interests in the Indo-Pacific region, such as deterring and responding to DPRK’s nuclear and missile threats and both leaders committed to continuing discussions on trilateral security cooperation by utilizing the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT). Both sides also welcomed the normalization of the ROK-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) during the March ROK-Japan Summit. They also affirmed the critical role that the GSOMIA continues to play in enabling bilateral cooperation between the ROK and Japan, as well as trilateral security cooperation among the ROK, United States, and Japan.
During the DSC, both sides discussed various ways to enhance U.S. extended deterrence. Both sides acknowledged progress on the revision of the ROK-U.S. Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) based on guidance from U.S. and ROK strategic documents to effectively deter and respond to advancing DPRK nuclear and missile threats.
The leaders also commended the successful completion of a DSC TTX in February 2023 and pledged to continue discussions on deterrence and response options through future TTXs.
Both sides committed to strengthen cooperation in each area of extended deterrence including information sharing, joint planning and execution, consultation mechanisms, and crisis communication in preparation for DPRK threats and accelerate expanding the ROK’s role under the combined defense system.
U.S. officials reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK, leveraging the full range of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities as well as advanced non-nuclear capabilities. ROK officials underscored their efforts to strengthen the ROK 3K Defense and establish the ROK Strategic Command, which is to contribute to deterrence and respond to DPRK’s advancing nuclear and missile threats under the robust combined defense posture.
Furthermore, the leaders reviewed progress on the Program Analysis Working Group (PAWG) for U.S.-ROK Missile Defense and the Counter Missile Working Group (CMWG) and pledged to continue close collaboration.
In conclusion, U.S. and ROK leaders assessed that the 22ndKIDD bolstered Alliance coordination and strengthened the U.S.-ROK combined defense posture. Based on these outcomes, the two sides pledged to continue progress leading up to the 55th SCM, scheduled for Fall 2023, and other 70th Anniversary events. They also agreed to continue discussions on holding the ROK-UNC Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting. The leaders concurred that the ROK-U.S. Summit, which will take place in late April on the 70thAnniversary of the Alliance, will be a significant step that propels the Alliance toward an even more global and comprehensive strategic Alliance.