SEOUL, South Korea, August 20, 2014 —
On the first day of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s first official visit here with military and political leaders, talks focused on the North Korean threat, the importance of cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and key capabilities needed for the U.S.-South Korea bilateral relationship, a senior defense official said.
The deputy secretary’s first stop today was at the U.S. Forces Korea Headquarters building where he met with USFK Commander Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti and Leslie A. Bassett, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Scaparrotti also is chief of the United Nations Command and Combined Forces Command.
During a working lunch the officials discussed current issues in the alliance, the official said, and in particular focused on the threat from North Korea.
Later this afternoon Work visited the Blue House, a complex of buildings that includes the executive office and official residence of the president of the Republic of Korea, and whose name in the Korean language means “pavilion of blue tiles.”
There, the deputy secretary met with the new National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, who as recently as June had been South Korea’s minister of national defense, before President Park Geun-hye named him to her cabinet.
During his visit, Work brought Kim greetings from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who the defense official said knew Kim well in his previous year as minister.
Also at the Blue House, Work met with South Korea’s new Defense Minister Han Min-Koo and other senior government officials.
In his discussion with Kim, the deputy secretary described his role and focus on Northeast Asia posture issues for the Defense Department.
“They both underscored the importance of [the U.S.-South Korea] alliance to peace and security in the region,” the senior defense official said.
Work underscored the U.S. priority and emphasis on the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region in particular, the official added, “and a big part of that are our alliance relationships -- the importance of having capable, modern and effective alliances.”
The defense official said Work is visiting South Korea as the annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is getting underway.
Ulchi-Freedom Guardian is a U.S.-South Korea military exercise known before 2008 as Ulchi-Focus Lens, the world's largest computerized command-and-control implementation focusing mainly on defending South Korea from a North Korean attack. The exercise was initiated in 1976 and is conducted annually in August or September.
“This is a good opportunity for the deputy secretary to see the exercise first-hand,” the senior defense official said, “[and] see the coordination and cooperation first-hand.”
Officials at the Blue House had a long conversation about the North Korean threat and the unprecedented provocation cycle, including such incidents as missile launches, artillery fire in the Yellow Sea, the infiltration of small unmanned aerial vehicles, and the looming threat of a fourth nuclear test, each of which undermine stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region.
“The deputy secretary underscored the importance of a strong and effective and capable alliance in deterring and responding to the North Korean threat,” the defense official said. “This is a point he emphasized in both his meetings today.”
The officials discussed the importance of trilateral cooperation with Japan and they had long conversations with Kim and Han about the importance of a strong and effective alliance and bilateral capabilities that are required for that, the senior defense official added.
Work thanked Kim and Han for the roles they played in the special measures agreement, which provides for South Korean cost-sharing support to offset costs associated with stationing U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula.
The 2014-2018 agreement will provide for continued South Korean support in logistics, labor and construction and will help ensure that the United States has the resources needed for the combined defense of the Korean Peninsula.
Kim and Han both praised Scaparrotti for the day-to-day role that he plays in the alliance, the senior defense official said.
The deputy secretary highlighted the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and thanked the South Korean leaders for their support.
“It’s important that we're transparent, that we work through issues together as an alliance,” the official said, “because both sides recognize the importance of a strong U.S.-Korea alliance, especially in the current situation on the peninsula with North Korea.”
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