STAFF (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We will now begin the ROK-U.S. Defense Ministerial joint press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup Lee with opening remarks.
DEFENSE MINISTER LEE JONG-SUP (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First of all, I would like to extend my warm welcome and express my gratitude to Secretary Austin and the U.S. delegation for visiting the Ministry of National Defense. This meeting marks the fourth ROK-U.S. Defense Ministerial Meeting following our meetings from last year. It celebrates the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance, and it is also the first step of the next seven years of the alliance.
Today, Secretary Austin and I produce substantive outcomes to bilaterally respond to joint security challenges, including the advancing nuclear missile threats by North Korea, and also to develop the alliance in a more future-oriented manner.
First, Secretary Austin and I strongly condemned North Korea's continued provocations and violations of the UNC resolutions, including its missile launches and recent drone incursions, and we reaffirm that along with the international community, we will respond more resolutely to any further provocations by North Korea. The Secretary and I agree to together pursue options to strengthen the effectiveness of extended deterrence in order to firmly guarantee the U.S. commitment to the defense of ROK. In particular, as agreed upon at the ROK-U.S. Summit in May last year and the 54th SCM, Secretary and I have pledged to bolster the alliance capability to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, as well as to strengthen the implementation of extended deterrence in areas of information sharing, joint planning and execution and consultation mechanisms.
For information sharing, we agree to expand the range sharing of information needed for the response to North Korean nuclear threats. For joint planning, we reaffirm to complete the revision of tailored deterrence strategy before this security consultative meeting this year.
I believe that this is an outcome that reflects the U.S. will to more actively consider the ROK stance from the phase of planning via extended deterrence. For joint execution, we noted to hold the tabletop exercise in February in order to facilitate the alliance discussion on options to determine response to North Korean nuclear threats.
For consultation mechanism, we agreed for a close communication between the Republic of Korea and the United States, and all procedures of decision-making, by activating ROK-U.S. crisis management consultation groups at times of North Korean crisis.
Furthermore, the Secretary and I share the sentiment that the combined flight training event executed with the deployment of U.S. strategic bombers last year was the embodiment of extended deterrence in action, that displayed various deterrence capabilities of the alliance and agreed to closely consult for timely and coordinated deployment of strategic U.S. assets.
And going forward as well, we will seek together for various measures to extend the deterrence implementation, to show the public of the Republic of Korea the firm will of the United States commitment to the defense of ROK.
In addition, in order to realize peace through strength on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary Austin and I pledge to expand the scale and elevate the level of combined exercises and trainings.
We will further reinforce the alliance capability and posture and the combined defense through expanded execution of field training exercises and large-scale combined joint fires demonstration.
In addition, the secretary and I discussed methods to strengthen regional security cooperation, including the ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation.
In particular, we committed to develop the options to expedite real-time sharing of missile warning information, a point of agreement by the three leaders at the Phnom Penh Summit in November.
To this end, we concurred on holding the defense trilateral talks as soon as possible and consulting on specific options.
Lastly, for the promotion of security on the Korean Peninsula, we agreed to strengthen the solidarity with the UNC member states that share the core values with the ROK and the U.S.
Secretary Austin welcomed our offer of hosting a 2023 ROK-UNC member states defense ministerial meeting and agreed to further consult on the matter at related meetings.
The Republic of Korea and the United States continuing to strengthen their military alliance while celebrating the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the signing of armistice agreement will continue to expand the cooperation for the contribution to security subregions, including the Indo-Pacific. Thank you.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well thank you, Minister Lee. Good afternoon, everyone, and let me start by thanking President Yoon, Minister Lee, and their teams for hosting us here in Seoul. We're delighted to be here and it's been a highly productive visit.
Seventy years ago, our countries signed the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty and established our alliance, and for seven decades, the U.S.-ROK alliance has bolstered peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific.
Our ultimate goal is peace and not conflict, and toward that end, our countries have worked side by side to deter large-scale conflict, to strengthen our combined capabilities, and to defend the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.
In 2022, we confronted an unprecedented number of provocations from the -- from the DPRK. So make no mistake -- the United States stands united with the ROK, and together, we condemn these dangerous actions which violate international law and threaten to destabilize the region.
Our commitment to the defense of the ROK remains ironclad. The United States stands firm in its extended deterrence commitment, and that includes the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including our conventional, nuclear, and missile defense capabilities.
Now, we have 28,500 uniformed personnel in South Korea who proudly work together every day with their ROK counterparts. That’s one of the largest U.S. troop deployments around the world. And it just shows our unwavering commitment to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula.
And over the past year, our two countries have made great progress in deepening our cooperation. We've strengthened our combined readiness and training and we expanded the scope of -- and scale of our exercises.
We increased our coordination in the face of the DPRK threat, including bilateral and trilateral responses that demonstrated the capability and readiness of our combined forces. And let me underscore our mutual belief that trilateral cooperation with Japan enhances all of our security.
We held high-level dialogues and we deployed assets, including F-22s, F-35s, and a Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. And we found ways to work even more closely together, including by agreeing to deepen our cooperation in Southeast Asia.
Today's meeting was an opportunity to discuss how we'll build on that progress in 2023, including coming back to Seoul for the 55th Security Consultative Meeting later this year. As we look ahead to the next 70 years, I'm confident that our two proud democracies will continue working toward our shared vision of a stable and secure Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Minister Lee, thank you for your leadership, for your friendship, and for your tremendous support for this great alliance, and thank you again for hosting us today. And now, we'll be happy to take a few questions.
STAFF (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We'll now take questions from the media. Please raise your hand to be called for questions, and upon being called, please state your name and the agency you're from before asking a question. Thank you.
Q (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This is an -- this is (inaudible). I'd like to direct my question to minister of national defense, Minister Lee, and the question is on the ROK-U.S. extended deterrence. What type of a meaning does ROK-U.S. extended deterrence convey at the current phase? And also, the question -- another question is, how you seek to increase and develop the trilateral security cooperation with the Republic of Korea, the United States and Japan?
And also, I have a question to Secretary Austin, as well. Secretary Austin, you have mentioned the timely and coordinated deployment of strategic U.S. military assets. What type of a deployment of these assets are you currently envisioning? And also, additional question is you have mentioned conventional weapons, but there -- but recently, UAVs have been emerging as a new type of threat, as well. How do you assess the recent drone incursion that was conducted by North Korea? And what type of measures were taken?
MIN. LEE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Firstly, I would like to provide my answer regarding your question on strengthening extended deterrence and the implementation capability, and what type of a meaning these two actions convey. And as for the rest of the question, I would like to yield the floor to Secretary Austin to provide the answer.
Extended deterrence is a policy by the United States that has been continuously pursued, and the Republic of Korea and the United States have provided much endeavors to strengthen the implementation and the effectiveness of extended deterrence. The further explanation on extended deterrence has been provided in other areas.
And the meaning of the efforts that we provide to strengthen extended deterrence is as follows: It's to deter the advancement and the development of North Korea's nuclear capability, and it's also to deter the nuclear usage by North Korea, and this goes on to demonstrate that even if they do use their nuclear capabilities, the Republic of Korea and the United States have the capability to deter their efforts, and also, the United States has the will to deter other uses for nuclear weapons, as well. And this goes on to demonstrate that we have the capability to deter any additional provocation by North Korea.
SEC. AUSTIN: I think your question was regarding the types of deployments that we are contemplating in the future.
In my remarks, you heard me talk about some of the things that we've done in the past. We deployed fifth-generation aircraft, F-22s, F-35s, and also deployed a carrier strike group to visit the peninsula. You can look for more of that kind of activity going forward. But in addition to that, you can look to see deeper consultation between our two countries and that leadership. And also, we will do a number of tabletop exercises to ensure that we're seeing things eye-to-eye, which we do anyway, but we want to make sure that no stone is left unturned. So those are the kinds of things that we're looking at in the future.
STAFF: William Dunlop from AFP?
Q: Thank you. Secretary Austin, Kim Jong-un has declared North Korea and irreversible nuclear state and showed no willingness to disarm. In light of this, is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still an achievable goal? And if so, how? And additionally, would you view South Korea seeking its own nuclear arsenal in a positive or negative light?
Minister Lee, NATO's Secretary-General called on Korea to step up military support for Ukraine. Is Seoul considering changing its policy on the export of offensive weapons in order to aid Kyiv? Thank you.
SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Will. The United States and the ROK are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we've long been that way. The U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea is ironclad. You heard us say that a number of times, but that's just not a slogan; it is what we're all about. That commitment is ironclad, and our extended deterrence is at the heart of that commitment.
And so today, Minister Lee and I talked about ways to ensure that that extended deterrence remains strong. You've heard us talk about a number of the things that we are contemplating. And so we'll continue to work together to build upon that. But as things continue to evolve, our alliance continues to strengthen and we look for ways to strengthen that extended deterrence.
MIN. LEE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I believe the second part of the question was directed to me. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have dialogue with the Secretary General of NATO.
And to provide the interpretation for Minister Lee's response -- Secretary General of NATO yesterday provided the explanation of a situation of the war in Ukraine and the Secretary General and I have -- we share the sentiment on the need for the international effort in overcoming this crisis.
However, to provide my answer regarding our weapons support that -- our Republic of Korea's weapons support, I'd like to say that -- I'd like to leave my answer at that we are directing our close attention to the situation in Ukraine. Thank you.
It was initially planned to receive more questions than more questions were to be answered. However, due to time constraint, we'll end the joint press conference here. Thank you.
And now please do understand that we won't be -- we won't be able to receive more questions because Secretary Austin and I have follow-ups scheduled after this joint press conference.
SEC. AUSTIN: Thank you very much.