Marines from South Korea and the US take part in amphibious landing drills in April 2020. (Ministry of National Defense)
Senior South Korean and US defense officials agreed to hold three-way minister-level talks with Japan in the coming days, potentially to discuss security issues involving the Korean Peninsula, at a two-day dialogue that ended Thursday in Washington, DC.
The trilateral talks, which last opened at an expanded meeting of ASEAN defense ministers in 2019, are expected to resume at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 4-5.
The gathering is coming at a critical time for the US seeking to engage North Korea with a new policy on the back of a coalition of its two top Asian allies. Seoul-Tokyo relations are at their worst in decades over long-simmering disputes involving Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea.
North Korea, which has rebuffed diplomatic entreaties from the US, insists on easing sanctions over its nuclear and weapons program, making “practical progress” the US is looking to find at fresh nuclear talks more elusive.
At the biannual dialogue, Seoul and Washington also agreed that their joint military drills are key to ensuring a robust readiness against North Korean aggression, with the US reaffirming its commitment to providing “extended deterrence,” reinforcements such as nuclear weapons and latest defense systems.
The two allies said they will seek a conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control. Korea is planning to retake it from the US that has been responsible for it since the 1950-53 Korean War, which still leaves the two Koreas at war.
Seoul, which first demonstrated its readiness in 2019 and has to do the same two more times to assume the command, was planning to do so during the August drills this year and March drills next year, but Washington has reservations. The US is reluctant since the biannual drills do not involve mobilizing troops on the ground.
The next meeting opens later this year in Seoul.
By Choi Si-young (firstname.lastname@example.org