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Defense ministers of S. Korea and US to visit JSA next month

Defense ministers of S. Korea and US to visit JSA next month

Posted January. 19, 2023 07:48,   

Updated January. 19, 2023 07:50


U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who will visit South Korea at the end of this month, will visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) along with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup. It was reported that they are discussing a detailed schedule at the moment. This will be the first time in five years since October 2017 that the defense ministers of South Korea and the U.S. visit the JSA together. The defense ministers may voice a strong warning against North Korea’s provocations in the JSA, which borders the North.

According to a government source on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Austin will arrive in South Korea on January 31 and visit the JSA with Defense Minister Lee the next day. “The joint visit is to send a message that South Korea and the U.S. will jointly engage in firm responses in case of further provocations by North Korea, which is raising military tensions with its drone provocations and replay missile launches,” said the source.

The last joint visit to the JSA by the defense leaders of the two countries took place in October 2017 when North Korea escalated tensions by conducting its sixth nuclear test and launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in series. “We will maintain an ironclad alliance between South Korea and the U.S. and impenetrable defense posture for South Korea against Kim Jong Un’s provocations,” said former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who visited the JSA along with former South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo. Such a joint visit had not been made since then as a more friendly mood was formed between the two Koreas, with South Korea hosting PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in February 2018 and a summit meeting between the two Koreas in April 2018.

The upcoming JSA visit by the defense leaders of South Korea and the U.S. will be a symbolic event to signal that the military alliance between the two countries will unfold very tightly at an unprecedented level. South Korean and U.S. military authorities will conduct a Deterrence Strategy Committee tabletop exercise (DSC TTX) next month, which is a map exercise to discuss between the South Korean Defense Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department how the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella (extended deterrence, including strategic bombers) will be provided to South Korea in response to a scenario of North Korea using nuclear weapons. The U.S. Defense Secretary’s visit to South Korea prior to the exercise puts more significance on the U.S.’s defense promise of providing extended deterrence capabilities to South Korea in case of North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Defense Secretary Austin is expected to emphasize security cooperation among South Korea, the U.S., and Japan to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats during his visit to the JSA since a tight response to North Korea’s nuclear attacks is possible when cooperation between the three countries is strengthened by building real-time alarm and intelligence sharing system on North Korea’s missile launches between the three countries earlier.

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com · Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com