By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
SEOUL, March 27, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he had "important and very productive conversations" with South Korean military officials here today on topics including integrated air and missile defense to deter North Korean aggression.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, in a meeting with his counterpart, Adm. Choi Yun-hee, praised the ties between their militaries, saying the relationship is stronger than it has ever been.
"Our alliance, which is really more like a friendship than an alliance, certainly will outlive anyone of us, because of the way we have lived and worked together over the past 60 years," Dempsey said in a roundtable meeting that included senior staff members from both nations.
"I am very proud of what we've been able to accomplish," he said.
Choi thanked the chairman for his commitment to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, noting the alliance has maintained stability in the face of North Korean aggression.
"For the last six decades, the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance has effectively deterred North Korean provocation, and this has been the driving force, the foundation of the miraculous economic industrial development that we have achieved here in the Republic of Korea," Choi said.
Missile Defense Needed to Deter North Korean Threats
Just as terrorists use improvised explosive devices as the asymmetrical weapon of choice, Dempsey said, rogue states like North Korea rely on ballistic missiles.
To deter that threat, Dempsey said, close cooperation within the alliance and within the region is important to ensure effective interoperability of the integrated air and missile defense.
In a separate meeting, Dempsey told Defense Minister Han Min-koo the alliance had made progress in several areas.
Moving to a conditions-based approach for determining the time to transfer to South Korea wartime control of allied forces, known as operational control, was one key area. Others included missile defense and realistic military exercises that improved readiness, Dempsey said.
Honoring Fallen South Korean Sailors
Dempsey paused earlier today to remember the 46 sailors killed in a North Korean torpedo attack five years ago against the South Korean frigate Cheonan.
The chairman took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Cemetery, to mark the March 26, 2010, attack. An investigation, led by South Korea that included experts from the United States and several other nations, concluded North Korea fired the torpedo.
The wreath-laying ceremony, Dempsey said earlier in the week, is a moving tribute to honor those killed in what he called "another indication" of the real danger posed by North Korea.
"I'm honored that I was asked to be part of that," Dempsey said on his plane as he traveled to Asia. "It is a chance to express both our condolences to the families who are still suffering from the loss and also to our Republic of Korea colleagues."
Dempsey, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, met yesterday with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, shortly after he arrived in the country.