Partnerships

U.S., South Korean Leaders Review State of Alliance

Nov. 15, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone

U.S. and South Korean defense officials reviewed the state of the military alliance between the two countries and charted the way ahead today in Seoul, South Korea, during the 51st annual Security Consultative Meeting.

Following their meeting, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo briefed the press on the talks. The two leaders said the discussions covered a wide range of issues, including wartime operational control, the Special Measures Agreement and other ways to enhance security cooperation between the close treaty allies.

Two men shake hands and hold a glass box.
Gift Exchange
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper receives a gift from South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo during the 51st annual U.S.-South Korean Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia, DOD
VIRIN: 191114-D-AP390-2118

''The United States remains fully committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea,'' Esper told the press. ''The U.S.-[South Korean] alliance is ironclad and I am confident our nations will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance security, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the broader Indo-Pacific region.''

The U.S. and South Korea will continue to enhance the defense capabilities of the alliance to help realize the goal of ''final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,'' Esper said. 

Part and parcel of this goal is the continued enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to encourage North Korea to stop its dangerous process of building nuclear and missile technologies.

A room full of men in suits and uniform, many sitting at a large table with microphones.
Security Consultative Meeting
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, participate in the 51st annual U.S.-South Korean Security Consultative Meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia, DOD
VIRIN: 191114-D-AP390-1164

The two men addressed progress on the transition of wartime operational control. Both are in agreement with senior military officials' assessment of the future Combined Forces Command's initial operational capability. ''Overall, we agree that substantive progress has been made in the conditions-based transfer of operational control to a [South Korean] commander,'' the defense secretary said. ''There is more work to be done, however, and we remain committed to close cooperation on this topic.''

Esper and Jeong also discussed the Special Measures Agreement, which is being negotiated now. This is a type of burden-sharing agreement, and is how South Korea shares the costs of U.S. forces to defend the country. The current agreement expires at the end of the year. 

Two men surrounded by a bunch of people walk through a doorway.
Secretary Walk
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper walks with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the 51st annual U.S.-South Korean Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia, DOD
VIRIN: 191114-D-AP390-1034

The defense secretary said the agreement has greatly contributed to strengthening combined defense capabilities. ''It is crucial that we conclude the 11th SMA with increased burden sharing by [South Korea] by the end of the year,'' he said.

The two countries will continue cooperation in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterpiracy operations, and other regional problems, Esper said.

''We are also working to strengthen cooperation in the space and cyber domains to bolster our alliance's response capabilities ensuring our alliance maintains our decisive advantage on the battlefield,'' the secretary said.