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S. Korean, US defense chiefs reaffirm ‘exemplary alliance’

Defense Minister Suh Wook delivers a congratulatory message at an annual defense expo in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Nov. 18, 2020. (Yonhap)
Defense Minister Suh Wook delivers a congratulatory message at an annual defense expo in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Nov. 18, 2020. (Yonhap)
Defense Minister Suh Wook and US acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller reaffirmed the two countries’ commitment to an “exemplary alliance” during their first phone call, the Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday.

Miller ascended to the role after President Donald Trump fired Secretary Mark Esper a week earlier.

The two defense chiefs confirmed their ironclad mutual defense commitments against North Korea and vowed close cooperation on a range of issues pending agreement.

“The two leaders further pledged to pursue continued progress on the mutual security interests of the US-ROK Alliance,” the US Defense Department said in a statement. The phone conversation took place at the request of the US side.

The two allies are looking to close a defense cost-sharing deal for this year on the maintenance of the 28,500 American troops stationed here. Seoul is also working to get its wartime operational command back from Washington by May 2022, though Seoul’s readiness for the role is in dispute.

Also on Wednesday, Suh said his ministry would spend at least $70 billion over the next five years to expand the local defense industry as part of beefing up the country’s defense capabilities. That is about 80 percent of the $90 billion set aside to bolster defense systems.

“We’re one of the leading arms exporters and a pioneer in the latest technology involving artificial intelligence. We’ve come a long way from making firearms to building missiles,” Suh said in a congratulatory message at an annual defense expo in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

Suh added, “We now have our eyes set on the core defense technologies. We’ll work hand in hand with the private sector to get them.”

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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