U.S. Reaffirms Defense Commitment to Republic of Korea

Washington - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon October 20 to discuss mutual security interests and defense preparedness against the backdrop of North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test.

South Korean National Minister of Defense Yoon Kwang-woong was in Washington for the 38thannual U.S.-Korean Security Consultative Meeting.  Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing later in the day that this session had added significance, given North Korea’s recent action.  Rumsfeld reaffirmed the strong, 30-year U.S. commitment to Seoul, which he said remains solid.

Yoon said the meeting provided the opportunity to showcase the solidarity of the alliance between the two nations.  Asked if he thought the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the formal name for North Korea) might conduct a second nuclear test soon, Yoon said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has said he will not, but Seoul and Washington are sharing intelligence on that matter.

Since North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are of such concern, Rumsfeld said, the United States hopes South Korea will participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) designed to head off the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated technologies by land or air or sea.  (See related article.)

Rumsfeld said the North Korean and Iranian weapons programs “punctuate the importance of counterproliferation efforts” such as PSI.  President Bush proposed PSI in Poland in 2003, and now more than 70 nations support the initiative in one way or another.

In the course of the meeting, U.S. and South Korean delegations also discussed the defense posture of the two nations; realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea; South Korean defense reforms; the timing of the transition of military command relationships; the plan to relocate the Yongsan Garrison away from the capital; and cost-sharing arrangements for the defense of the Korean Peninsula.

The two sides were working toward a joint communiqué to be issued at the conclusion of their talks.  The communiqué, Rumsfeld said, would include the same language as in years past in continuing the U.S. commitment to deter any attack on Seoul through an extended U.S. nuclear umbrella agreement consistent with the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty.  (See related article.)


Rumsfeld also was asked about Iraq, a country to which South Korea has deployed its troops.  He said Bush's key civilian national security advisers and military commanders would meet October 21 to discuss the situation, but the secretary also said that the Iraqis would have to govern their country and secure it “sooner rather than later.”

The goal remains to develop the strength and competence of the Iraqi government and not to create a dependency on coalition forces, he said.  (See related article.)

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula, Iraq Update and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.