US, South Korea to step up exercises in response to North Korean threats
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup promised a more resolute response to what they described as Pyongyang’s unprecedented level of provocations over the past year.
SEOUL: Amid repeated and more frequent missile tests by North Korea, the United States and South Korea have decided to increase the scope of joint military exercises, and expand intelligence sharing.
The response of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup came after Pyongyang’s alleged provocations over the past year.
Addressing the media, Austin assured South Korean officials that the Pentagon will use “the full range of U.S. defence capabilities, including our conventional, nuclear, and missile-defence capabilities” to defend its long-time ally.
Austin and Lee also said the two countries would move ahead with new table-top exercises next month, as well as additional exercises and training.
Austin said South Korea could also expect more support along the lines of recent U.S. deployments, which included the deployment of F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, and a visit by the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.
The United States currently has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. But Pyongyang’s bellicose behaviour has stoked growing concern in South Korea, prompting President Yoon Suk Yeol to suggest earlier this month that Washington might need to redeploy nuclear weapons to the peninsula while saying Seoul could also begin to develop its own nuclear arsenal. Austin met with Yoon Tuesday, following his meeting with Lee, though neither spoke to the media, according to Voanews.
Military tensions on the Korean peninsula intensified last year after the North conducted a series of weapons tests, including firing its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile.
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