Hostile Neighborhood: US Discusses Defense Cooperation With South Korea, Japan Amid Threats From China, N.Korea

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has discussed defense cooperation with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts during phone conversations, the US Department of Defense said.

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“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of National Defense Suh Wook today to reaffirm the ironclad U.S.-ROK Alliance and emphasize the importance of close cooperation between the two countries … Both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining a robust U.S.-ROK combined defense posture,” the department said in a press release late on Friday.

The officials also exchanged views on the security environment on the Korean Peninsula and emphasized the importance of broader regional cooperation between the country’s governments, the press release added.

“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III held a phone call with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi today, underscoring American support for the U.S.-Japan Alliance and emphasizing its role in maintaining a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” the authorities said in a separate press release.

The sides agreed on the need to continue strengthening cooperation within the US-Japan Alliance to address an increasingly uncertain regional security environment, as well as to build closer defense cooperation in the months to come.

The Pentagon head also congratulated Kishi on a successful opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the defense department added.

Threats From North Korea

Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressed the first workshop of commanders and political officers of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), urging them to be ready for active and offensive response to enemies’ provocations, the state news agency KCNA reported.

“The first workshop of the commanders and political officers of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) was held in Pyongyang, the capital of the revolution, from July 24 to 27 under the guidance of Kim Jong Un,” the agency said.

File:Hwasong 16 ICBM.png - Wikimedia Commons
Hwasong 16 ICBM – Wikimedia Commons

The workshop, attended by military commanders and political commissars of all the services, members of the executive committee of the KPA Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, defense ministry officials, was aimed at building a united army, loyal to the party, it was reported.

Kim called on commanders and officials to focus on completing preparations for “actively and offensively” responding to any military provocation of enemies.

“Saying that at present the hostile forces systematically keep bolstering up their capabilities for making a preemptive attack on the DPRK [North Korea] and increase armaments while intensifying all sorts of frantic and persistent war drills for aggression, he [Kim] noted such situation has hardened the determination and fighting will of the KPA to eradicate the root cause of the evil cycle of escalating tensions,” the KCNA reported.

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On Thursday, South Korea announced the deployment of an advanced 81-millimeter mortar system with improved fire speed and accuracy due to laser and global positioning system technologies.

The United States and South Korea are preparing to conduct a joint military exercise in August via computer simulations. The two countries have carried out such drills since 2018 to support denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.