US Secretary of Defense expressed hope that the US-South Korean alliance has “never been more important” amid “unprecedented challenges” posed by North Korea and China, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Lloyd Austin made the remarks during his first personal meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook in Seoul. He also qualified the bilateral partnership as a “linchpin” for Northeast Asia’s peace and security.
“Our commitment to the U.S.-ROK alliance, which has been steadfast for 70 years, remains ironclad,” Austin said, as quoted by Yonhap. This is the first visit of a cabinet-level US official of President Joe Biden’s administration to South Korea.
Earlier South Korea’s foreign minister said that Seoul is always aiming toward denuclearization and dialogue with North Korea.
“Out government’s stance remains unchanged concerning the matter of resuming the dialogue between the South and the North, as well as the North and the US, as soon as possible; make headway in the effort toward complete denuclearization and establishing a lasting peace framework,” ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said at a briefing in Seoul.
With that in mind, the South Korean government will continue to discuss the peace process in the Korean Peninsula with the United States, including during the upcoming talks between US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and their South Korean counterparts.
South Korea and the US are currently conducting a joint military exercise that will end on Thursday. Despite it being downgraded due to the coronavirus pandemic, the drill still provoked an outcry from Pyongyang.