1. The 51st Republic of Korea (ROK)-United States (U.S.) Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) was held in Seoul, on November 15, 2019. ROK Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeongdoo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper led their respective delegations, which included senior defense and foreign affairs officials. On November 14, 2019, ROK Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Park Hanki and U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, presided over the 44th U.S.-ROK Military Committee Meeting (MCM).
2. The Minister and the Secretary pledged to continue close communication and cooperation to develop the ROK-U.S. Alliance, which has served as the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region, in a mutually reinforcing and a future-oriented manner. Both sides praised the SCM’s effective handling of Alliance policy coordination over the past half-century in full expectation that it should continue as the cornerstone venue to affirm national commitments designed to develop the Alliance and enhance security and prosperity in the region. They also assessed the results of the Joint Study for the Future Defense Vision of the ROK-U.S. Alliance regarding future defense cooperation areas of the Alliance and reaffirmed the common understanding that the scope and level of the future Alliance cooperation should continuously expand and deepen.
3. The Minister and the Secretary reviewed the current security environment in the Korean Peninsula and the region and discussed cooperative measures between the two nations. Both sides reaffirmed the need for close coordination and cooperation to achieve their common objective of complete denuclearization in a verifiable manner and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. They also recognized the historic achievements made by the meetings between the leaders of the ROK, the United States, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) during 2018 and 2019 including the ROK-U.S.-DPRK meeting in June 2019 that was held at Panmunjom, a place that once served as a symbol of division. They also decided to continue their efforts towards creating an environment conducive to the implementation of the commitments in the Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity, and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula (Panmunjom Declaration), the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 (the Pyongyang Joint Declaration), and the Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit. They engaged in in-depth discussions on the repeated missile launch activities by the DPRK and pledged to remain closely aligned. They also affirmed the importance of full enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions by the international community.
4. The Minister and the Secretary assessed that the various actions undertaken by the ROK and the DPRK defense authorities to implement the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration set conditions for the easing of military tensions and reducing the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula. Minister Jeong noted that all mutual hostilities in the ground, sea, and air have ceased in the border areas and that key projects such as the demilitarization of the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the mutual pilot withdrawal of Guard Posts within the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) have been successfully completed through the implementation of the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA). Both sides assessed that the aforementioned efforts supported the stable management of the border areas with no instance of military tension in the border areas over the past year. The Minister and the Secretary pledged to continue to maintain close coordination and cooperation to implement the CMA and emphasized the importance for the DPRK to resume discussions through means including, but not limited to, holding the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee to implement the CMA fully.
5. The Minister and the Secretary assessed that the United Nations Command (UNC)’s administering of the Armistice Agreement has contributed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and enabled the implementation of inter-Korean confidence building measures contained in the CMA. The Minister also stated that the ROK fully supports and respects the Armistice Agreement and the authorities and responsibilities of UNC. In addition, noting that the Northern Limit Line (NLL) has been an effective means of separating ROK and DPRK military forces and preventing military tension to date, the Minister expressed his expectation that the buffer zone, which was agreed through the CMA, would contribute to preventing unplanned encounters and contribute to the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary shared his understanding that the military confidence-building measures are important for establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, and noted the important role performed by UNC in implementing the Armistice Agreement and enabling the smooth implementation of confidence-building measures.
6. The Minister and the Secretary assessed that the U.S.-ROK Alliance is strong and reaffirmed the two nations’ mutual commitment to the defense of the ROK and the enhancement of mutual security of both nations based on the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty and a robust combined defense posture. The Secretary reaffirmed the continued U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence to the ROK using the full range of military capabilities, including U.S. nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. The Minister and the Secretary also assessed that the results of the Joint Study on Extended Deterrence brought to light measures to enhance cooperation designed to strengthen extended nuclear deterrence. Both sides pledged to continue to explore jointly measures to enhance the Alliance deterrence posture and implement the Tailored Deterrence Strategy while considering the effects of changes in the security environment on the Peninsula and in the region.
7. The Minister and the Secretary noted that U.S. forces in the ROK have played a critical role in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula over the past 66 years, and reaffirmed that U.S. Forces, Korea (USFK) will continue to play an important role in preventing armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula and promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. Given the current security environment, the Secretary also reaffirmed the commitment to maintain the current level of the U.S. military personnel in the ROK and to enhance combat readiness.
8. The Minister and the Secretary reviewed preparations for the relocation of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) Headquarters to Camp Humphreys that had been approved by the two sides at the June 3, 2019, ministerial-level meeting. The Minister and the Secretary confirmed that the CFC Headquarters relocation strengthens the ROK-U.S. combined defense posture, and pledged to complete the CFC Headquarters relocation expeditiously. The two sides also pledged to work together so that the relocation contributes toward a stable transition following transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) in accordance with the Alliance Guiding Principles and the Conditions-based OPCON Transition Plan (COTP).
9. The Minister and the Secretary exchanged views on how the adjusted ROK-U.S. combined exercise and training supported the existing diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The two sides also assessed that the adjusted combined exercise and training maintained the ROK-U.S. combined defense posture and military readiness while contributing to an environment conducive to OPCON transition, and pledged to continue close coordination on the actions to be implemented in this regard. Both sides assessed that the ROK-U.S. Alliance must continue to focus on military readiness and the combined defense posture to address the dynamic changes on the Peninsula.
10. The Minister and the Secretary committed to cooperate closely to develop comprehensive Alliance capabilities in response to common security threats. The Minister emphasized the plans of the ROK to continue to reinforce its defense capabilities in order to respond proactively to omnidirectional security threats and to be capable of leading future security environment changes through the ongoing Defense Reform 2.0. The Secretary expressed his expectations that the ROK military’s defense reform would contribute to the enhancement of comprehensive Alliance capabilities and to the establishment of a robust U.S.-ROK binational Future-CFC commanded by a ROK general/flag officer.
11. The Minister and the Secretary reviewed the progress on relevant tasks for OPCON transition, discussed the way-ahead, and commended realistic achievements and strides made in preparation for the wartime OPCON transition to a ROK-commanded Future-CFC. The two sides reaffirmed the implementation of the Alliance Guiding Principles that had been signed in 2018 to maintain a steadfast combined readiness posture, even after OPCON transition. The Minister and the Secretary concurred in the important role that this year’s combined command post training had played in maintaining a strong ROK-U.S. combined defense posture and in conducting the certification assessment for the future ROK-U.S. CFC Initial Operational Capability (IOC). After review of the assessment report produced by the combined certification team and the MCM, the Minister and the Secretary reviewed the IOC certification assessment results. The Minister and the Secretary decided to pursue an assessment of Full Operational Capability (FOC) for the Future CFC in 2020 and pledged to implement necessary steps, including the development of Strategic Documents, for the FOC certification assessment.
12. The Minister and the Secretary also affirmed that progress has been made in meeting the conditions for wartime OPCON transition. The two sides noted that the special Permanent Military Committee (PMC) was held to assess the critical military capabilities and the efforts of the special PMC promoted the credibility of the evaluation. The Minister emphasized that the ROK military will continue to acquire defense capabilities necessary to command the future combined defense system and to pursue wartime OPCON transition in a systematic as well as proactive manner. The Secretary reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue to provide bridging capabilities until the ROK acquires these capabilities, as well as enduring capabilities. The Minister pledged to acquire these capabilities expeditiously. The two sides pledged to engage in regular evaluation and review of progresses in OPCON transition implementation at the annual SCM and MCM in order to maintain a steadfast combined defense system.
13. The Minister and the Secretary received a report on the results of the U.S.-ROK MCM from the U.S.-ROK CFC Commander and expressed their satisfaction with the progress in enhancing combined defense capabilities and developing relevant operational plans as well as Strategic Documents early next year. The two sides agreed to conduct a joint study on the development of a combined joint multi-purpose live fire training complex.
14. The Minister and the Secretary decided to continue to strengthen cooperation in various areas, including space and cyber, in order to ensure an effective joint response against newly emerging threats and to bolster comprehensive Alliance response capabilities. The Minister and the Secretary acknowledged the efforts of the respective defense authorities to attain space capabilities, including the founding of the U.S. Space Command and the establishment of a space surveillance system in the ROK. The two sides also pledged to explore further cooperative measures to strengthen space capabilities as an Alliance, such as space situational awareness information sharing systems, and to expand bilateral and multilateral combined exercises and training events to improve space operation capabilities. They also pledged to continue engaging in cooperation to develop space professionals equipped with the capabilities to address new space threats and challenges.
15. The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen Alliance cyber capabilities in light of the increasing scope of cyber security threats. The two sides committed to maintain close communication and coordination in the cyber domain, including sharing trends of cyber threats as well as corresponding policy changes in their respective nations and discussing common issues of interest.
16. The Minister and the Secretary noted that ROK-U.S. science and technology cooperation has expanded in several domains such as cyber defense, artificial intelligence, automation, and directed energy. The two sides assessed that cooperation is continuing to develop in a way that furthers ROK-U.S. mutual interests.
17. The Minister and the Secretary concurred in the need to strengthen the national defense capabilities of the Alliance, and to establish more efficient and effective collaboration in their development, acquisition and employment. The two sides concurred in the importance of expanding and deepening cooperation in the areas of defense research and development, industrial cooperation, capability acquisition, and logistics and sustainment, with a focus on strengthening the national defense capabilities of the Alliance as well as interoperability. Going forward, the two sides pledged to continue to devise and deepen cooperative efforts through the regular consultative bodies that support these domains, and approved a reform of those consultative bodies to strengthen their alignment with Alliance policy and strategy.
18. The Minister and the Secretary pledged to continue and to enhance defense cooperation to address wide-ranging global security challenges of mutual interest, including through peacekeeping operations (PKO), counter-piracy operations, stabilization and reconstruction efforts, regional security cooperation initiatives, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The Minister highlighted the effective global leadership demonstrated by the United States in response to various global security challenges. The Secretary praised the ROK’s dedication and contribution to various global security efforts, including the counter-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden, UN peacekeeping operations, and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Based on the common understanding of the Alliance against threats posed by Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the Minister and the Secretary praised the efforts to improve response capabilities and to guarantee interoperability in the combined force to respond against WMD threats in contingency and to interdict WMD proliferation. They also resolved to continue to strengthen cooperation to improve WMD response capabilities, including efforts that go through the DoD Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
19. The Minister and the Secretary concurred in the importance of U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral security cooperation based on common security interests despite the challenges. They committed to continue ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral cooperation such as high-level policy consultations, combined exercises, information-sharing, and personnel exchanges. The two sides also pledged to seek ways to expand such efforts into multilateral regional cooperation to promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
20. The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed that an expeditious approach to USFK base relocation and returns are in the interest of both countries and pledged to work together closely on relevant matters including environmental conditions to ensure timely base returns in accordance with the U.S.-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). With regard to the four installations that require an expeditious approach for returns, the Minister and the Secretary commended the efforts to discuss various measures through the SOFA channel. The Minister and the Secretary also reaffirmed their intent to continue to discuss relevant issues through regular consultations in accordance with the SOFA in order to reach mutually acceptable solutions. The two sides also noted that the responsibility to restore the facilities and areas should be determined pursuant to agreements between the two countries and committed to enhance transparency regarding release of relevant information.
21. The Minister and the Secretary shared the view that ensuring continuous training opportunities for USFK is an essential element to maintaining a strong combined defensive posture. They also concurred in the importance of communication and cooperation between the ROK Ministry of National Defense and the USFK to strengthen civilian-military engagement with local civilians to allow for more effective joint usage of training ranges and to ensure combined live-fire training conditions to sustain the combined defense posture.
22. The Secretary offered his appreciation for the ROK’s contributions toward ensuring a stable stationing environment for U.S. forces in Korea while emphasizing the importance of defense cost sharing. The Minister and the Secretary noted that the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) has greatly contributed to strengthening U.S.-ROK combined defense capabilities and recognized the desire to conclude the 11th SMA before the expiration of the 10th SMA. Furthermore, the two sides shared the understanding that future SMA contributions must be set at a fair and mutually agreeable level.
23. Minister Jeong and Secretary Esper expressed appreciation for the courtesy, hospitality, and work by both sides that contributed to the success of this year’s SCM. The Minister and the Secretary affirmed that the discussions during the 51th SCM and the 44th MCM contributed substantively to strengthening the ROK-U.S. Alliance and further enhanced the development of the bilateral defense relationship into a mutually reinforcing Alliance. Both sides expect to hold the 52nd SCM and 45th MCM in Washington, D.C., at a mutually convenient time in 2020.
A summary of the Future Defense Vision of the Republic of Korea – U.S. Alliance can be found here.