South Korea, US defense chiefs to meet later this month

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The Korea Times

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday that he and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo plan to meet later this month.

The two would be meeting for the first time since Shanahan took office this year upon the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“The minister of defense for South Korea … will come see me at the end of this month,” Shanahan said at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said the two will discuss “progress and the findings” of combined military exercises, which were recently scaled back to support diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

Shanahan said the reorganization also took into account South Korea’s expanding responsibilities in operational control and the need to maintain troop readiness on the peninsula.

“I’ve had personal conversations with General Abrams, and I can assure you there will not be degradation,” he said, referring to the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Army Gen. Robert Abrams. “We will have the capability that we need.”

Weighing in on the exercises, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford assured the committee they have been designed to include logistical preparations for a potential conflict.

“This past year we did what we call a Korea readiness review, and we played out the first 60 days of a Korean conflict to include the detailed logistics planning that was necessary to support operations for the first 60 days,” he said.

“We, needless to say, learned a lot during that exercise. But our exercises absolutely include the logistics factors associated with our ability to conduct operations,” he added.

In a written statement to the panel, Dunford noted the need to be ready for “multiple contingencies” while remaining hopeful for peaceful denuclearization on the peninsula.

He said the USFK’s priority is to back global sanctions on North Korea and cited expanded sea and air operations that “deter and disrupt” illicit ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum and other goods headed for the North.

Meanwhile, Shanahan was asked about recent news reports that Washington is planning to ask allies to pay for the full cost of hosting U.S. troops and 50 percent more for the privilege.

After months of talks, South Korea and the United States recently concluded a one-year agreement under which Seoul increased its contribution by 8.2 percent to 1.04 trillion won (US$920 million).

“We won’t do cost-plus-50 percent,” Shanahan said, before adding that allies should pay their fair share. “We’re not going to run a business, and we’re not going to run a charity.”

He also expressed an intent to work to bridge gaps between South Korea and Japan ― two of the U.S.’ closest allies in Asia. (Yonhap)

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