By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, April 5 (Yonhap) — The United States takes its defense alliance with South Korea very seriously, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday, highlighting U.S. efforts to ensure the countries’ joint defense readiness at all times.
John Kirby also said the U.S. always evaluates its military exercises in any given year to make sure that the military is ready.
“Obviously, we’re all committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, and to security and stability on the peninsula,” he said when asked about the U.S.’ ongoing North Korea policy review and if its outcome might affect the U.S. military presence and exercises on the Korean Peninsula.
Kirby noted the review was still underway, but said the U.S. always takes a look “in any normal year” about the degree, scope and frequency of military training all around the world and “certainly on the peninsula as well to make sure that we are as ready as possible to deter.”
“But we take our commitments to the alliance that we have with the Republic of Korea very, very seriously,” he added.
In addition to the North Korea policy review, which is largely led by the State Department, the U.S. is conducting a global defense posture review, which might change the number of U.S. troops deployed overseas.
The U.S. currently has some 28,500 troops in South Korea.
The spokesman’s remarks come amid strong objections from North Korea against joint military exercises by South Korean and U.S. troops, which Pyongyang denounces as rehearsals for an invasion despite repeated assurances that the exercises are strictly defensive in nature.
Pyongyang has turned a deaf ear to U.S. overtures for engagement since mid-February and says it will continue to ignore any calls for dialogue until Washington gives up what it calls a hostile policy.