US Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Michael Shanahan (left) shakes hands with the Republic of Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (right) prior their meeting at the ministry of National Defense in Seoul on June 3, 2019. (KIM MIN-HEE / KYODO NEWS / POOL / AFP)
SEOUL - The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States' defense chiefs held talks in Seoul on Monday over security situations on the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul's defense ministry.
Jeong and Shanahan agreed to strengthen close consultation and cooperation in various areas, including the sharing of information on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear and missile activities
During the dialogue, ROK Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan assessed on the recent Korean Peninsula security situations, confirming their commitment to support for the bilateral diplomatic efforts for the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.
Jeong and Shanahan agreed to strengthen cooperation in various areas, including the sharing of information on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile activities.
On May 9, the DPRK launched two unidentified projectiles, which ROK saw as short-range missiles, from an area in the northwestern region. It came five days after Pyongyang fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast.
The projectile test-firings came after the second summit between top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump ended with no agreement in late February in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Despite the stalled talks, Pyongyang and Washington showed a willingness to continue denuclearization negotiations.
Jeong and Shanahan assessed that the first-half Dong Maeng Exercise militarily supported diplomatic efforts for the denuclearization and contributed to the firm defense posture of the allies.
The combined forces of ROK and the US conducted their joint annual Dong Maeng military drills in March to replace the large-scale Key Resolve command post exercise and the Foal Eagle field training drill. The Dong Maeng means alliance in English.
The two defense ministers agreed to end the summertime Ulchi Freedom Guardian war game of the allies, promising to strengthen communication and cooperation in drawing up the new second-half joint military drills.
The DPRK has denounced the ROK-US annual military exercises as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion. Seoul and Washington pushed to scale down and shorten their joint military exercise to support the ongoing peace process on the peninsula.
Regarding the transfer of the wartime operational control of ROK troops from Washington to Seoul, Jeong and Shanahan paid attention to the strides that have been made to meet the requirements, expressing anticipation for the verification result of Seoul's initial operational capability.
ROK's wartime operational command was handed over to the US-led UN Command after the three-year Korean War broke out in 1950. The country regained its peacetime command in 1994.
Seoul was supposed to retake the wartime operational control in 2015, but it was delayed amid rising tensions on the peninsula.
Seoul and Washington agreed in 2014 to the conditions-based wartime command transfer. The conditions included ROK's capability to lead the allies' combined forces, its capability for initial response to the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats, and the security stability on the peninsula.
ROK's initial operational capability would be tested during the second-half joint annual military exercise of the allies allegedly slated for August.
Jeong and Shanahan agreed to appoint a ROK four-star general, who does not double as the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman, to head the future ROK-US combined forces command (CFC) following the wartime operational control transition. The post has been assumed by the top commander of the US Forces Korea (USFK).
They also agreed to relocate the CFC headquarters to Camp Humphreys, a US military complex in Pyeongtaek, 70 km south of Seoul, from Yongsan Garrison in the capital city.
The Pentagon chief arrived in Seoul Sunday for a two-day visit, after visiting Singapore to attend a regional security forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue.
HONG KONG NEWS