By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2015 – The U.S.-South Korea alliance has a global reach based on mutual trust and common values, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a joint press conference after meeting with South Korean Minister of Defense Han Min-Koo today.
As Carter begins to wrap up his first official visit to the region as defense secretary, he met with his military counterpart in Seoul.
“We've worked together [with South Korea] to counter [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], combat Ebola and help rebuild Afghanistan,” Carter said.
“The gains for our national, regional and global security have been impressive, and I thank the Republic of Korea for all it’s doing to ensure peace and security around the world,” the secretary added.
Defense Secretary Reaffirms Resolve, Support
Carter reaffirmed the United States' resolve and support for the alliance and the defense of the Republic of Korea, and he emphasized America's unwavering commitment to its rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
“In light of this, I assessed that the U.S. strategy to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific will contribute to promoting the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” Han said.
The defense leaders reaffirmed their countries’ commitments to the strong alliance and to deepening their collaboration in the years ahead, Carter noted, adding there is particular emphasis on new domains such as space and cyberspace.
North Korea Threats Pivotal to Talks
North Korea’s threats were also key to the leaders’ talk. Carter said they made a candid assessment of the growing North Korean nuclear weapon of mass destruction and ballistic missile threats, “which continue to put at risk the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the U.S. homeland,” he said.
And as North Korea again demonstrated with its recent missile launches, the country is intent on continued provocation, Carter said.
Han added, “Secretary Carter and I reaffirmed that we will continue to work together on reinforcing the alliance's comprehensive capabilities in response to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile threats.”
Carter and Han also agree on the importance of trilateral information sharing to deter North Korea nuclear missile provocations, Han said.
South Korea, U.S., Japan Cooperation
“[Carter] concurred that Korea, the United States, and Japan should cooperate closely to contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world,” the South Korean leader said.
“On the peninsula, deterrence and readiness are at a premium,” Carter said. “So, we're investing in advanced capabilities to make sure that our top, new investments are tailored to this dynamic security environment and can play a role in … assuring security here.”
To that end, he said, the United States is beginning to rotationally deploy Army brigade combat teams to Korea, providing a more ready set of forces for the peninsula.
“And we're working hard to ensure interoperability with our Korean allies, including thorough training and exercises, like Key Resolve and Foal Eagle,” Carter noted.
The defense leaders also talked about their decision to adopt a conditions-based approach to the transition of wartime operational control, Carter pointed out.
The secretary called it a significant alliance decision, and said both he and Han remain committed to the objectives their nations established at the last security consultative meeting in October 2014.
Looking at America's lasting presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Carter said, “As secretary of defense, I'm personally committed to overseeing the next phase of our rebalance to the region, which will deepen and diversify our engagement throughout the Asia Pacific.”