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Dunford Heads to Seoul for Military, Security Meetings

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Oct. 30, 2015 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is en route to Seoul, South Korea, to participate in military and security discussions with America’s long-term ally.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will meet with South Korean and American leaders as part of the Military Committee Meeting and then will join Defense Secretary Ash Carter for the 47th Security Consultative Meeting, also in Seoul.

This is Dunford’s first trip to Seoul since taking office less than a month ago. Following the meetings there, the general will travel to Japan for meetings with military and civilian officials.

Discussions will likely cover North Korea, which remains a potent threat, with about 1.2 million active duty military personnel and millions of reservists, according to DoD figures. The military budget in the reclusive state is around $10 billion -- making it one of North Korea’s few well-funded activities.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is unpredictable, and has threatened nuclear strikes on the United States and South Korea. North Korea has tested atomic weapons, and there is speculation in the United States as to whether the nation has miniaturized nuclear components to fit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea also has entered the world of cyber war. Its attack on Sony last year showed those capabilities.

In August, North Korea placed mines that wounded two soldiers on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone. The incident escalated to an exchange of artillery before North Korea took responsibility for the incident.

Increased U.S.-South Korean Cooperation

U.S. and South Korean leaders will also discuss increased cooperation on space-based and cyber activities and how the two countries are modernizing their military capabilities, officials said. About 28,000 American service members are based in Korea. U.S. and South Korean forces train to be ready “to fight tonight,” and assessing that capability also will be part of the meetings, they added.

South Korea is a large and important trading partner with the United States and many thousands of Americans live and work in South Korea. The country has grown from a devastated nation in 1953 to a dynamo of trade and commerce in Northeast Asia, boasting the world’s 11th-largest economy.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)