South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and acting U.S. Secretary of State Patrick Shanahan engaged in a ministerial meeting at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Monday (local time) and discussed South Korea-U.S. joint training and transfer of wartime operational control. This was the first meeting since their inauguration. The two chiefs of defense stressed close military cooperation saying “We are a team,” yet revealed subtle difference with respect to evaluation of the joint training, of which the method and scale were adjusted.
“The recent exercise was very successful but we've also learned about improvements we can make in our fall exercises,” Shanahan said in his opening statement while referring to the “19-1 Dong Maeng” exercise, which substituted the Key Resolve practice last month. Although he did not mention what needs to be improved, it is interpreted that there are aspects that need to be supplemented and adjusted as the current practice is centered on military training that emphasizes defense, reducing counteroffensive measures that may stimulate North Korea. When asked about Shanahan’s opinion over concerns that the reduction of South Korea-U.S. joint training may weaken readiness condition, he answered, saying, “I don't think we're scaling back exercises. I think we're building capability.”
Meanwhile, Minister Jeong assessed such training to be “a very meaningful time to verify the initial operational employment capacity for the maintenance of a firm combined defense readiness and transfer of wartime operational control.” He told Korean correspondents that he reaffirmed the unfaltering commitment to provide military support for complete denuclearization and settlement of peace at the summit.
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