ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – Seoul urges N. Korea to start new year by opening door for dialogue

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s unification ministry on Monday urged North Korea to start the new year with a step for dialogue and cooperation, as Pyongyang is set to convene a key party meeting this week to discuss domestic and foreign policy issues.

North Korea earlier announced the ruling Workers’ Party will hold a plenary meeting of its central committee “in the last third of December” to “discuss and decide on work plans for the new year.”

“The plenary has been usually held for one to four days with leader Kim Jong-un’s attendance,” ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo said during a regular press briefing.

The Seoul government is keeping a close watch on the expected event for possible messages on inter-Korean relations or nuclear negotiations, she said.

“We hope North Korea will start the new year by opening the door for dialogue with the international community, and take a step forward for engagement and cooperation,” Lee said.

The remarks came as the nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States remain stalled since the collapse of the 2019 Hanoi summit.

Pyongyang has remained unresponsive to overtures for talks, demanding Washington first retract what it calls “double standards” and “hostile policy” against its regime.

In this photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency on Dec. 7, 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of the North Korean Army's educationists at the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang on Dec. 4 and 5. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

In this photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency on Dec. 7, 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of the North Korean Army’s educationists at the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang on Dec. 4 and 5. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211227003500325?section=nk/nk

News articles do not necessarily reflect the views of KDVA. Any copyrighted materials depicted on this web site are presented for educational purposes only and no claim of ownership is made by KDVA.

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Korea-US Alliance Foundation December 2021 Newsletter

Download Newsletter: Korea-US Alliance Foundation December Newsletter

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Yonhap – U.S. fields new radar designed to detect ballistic missiles from N. Korea

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — The United States on Monday completed the construction of a new long-range radar in Alaska that is designed to give early warnings for incoming ballistic missiles from rogue nations, such as North Korea, the chief of the U.S. missile defense said.

Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of U.S. Missile Defense Agency, also explained the new long range discrimination radar (LRDR) will be powerful enough to discriminate or identify lethal objects, such as warheads, allowing the U.S. to successfully intercept such objects.

“There’s a rogue nation there (in the INDO-PACOM region) that is targeting the United States, (has) demonstrated ballistic missile capability time and again and very recently,” Hill said in a virtual media roundtable, referring to North Korea.

“So the radar was strategically placed in Alaska, so with this wide field of view that we can capture threats coming from that region,” he added.

His remarks came shortly after the U.S. marked the initial fielding of the new radar, which the MDA director said will likely become fully operational “roughly in 2023” after testing and systems integration.

The U.S. began constructing the long-range radar following a series of missile provocations from North Korea.

Pyongyang has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on long-range ballistic missiles since November 2017, but staged several short-range missile tests this year, including the test launch of a self-claimed hypersonic missile in September and a submarine-launched ballistic missile the following month.

Hill said the LRDR will eventually be upgraded to track hypersonic missiles, though its current focus is to detect ballistic missile threats.

Still, the radar will be “very powerful” and will “pick out the lethal objects,” as opposed to decoys or non-lethal objects from a missile, such as boosters or fuel cans.

“If we can pick out the lethal objects, then we’re going to be shooting at that lethal object and not at boosters or beanbags,” Hill said.

“So that’s the technical geek stuff behind the term discrimination. It’s picking out the lethal object or lethal objects.”

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ARTICLE: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211207001500325?section=nk/nk

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Yonhap – N.K. leader Kim urges nurturing ‘absolutely loyal’ commanding officers

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has presided over a gathering of military educators and called on them to nurture commanding officers to be “absolutely loyal” to the ruling Workers’ Party, Pyongyang’s state media reported Tuesday.

The party’s Central Committee and Central Military Commission convened the gathering at the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang on Saturday and Sunday to make a “radical turn” in education projects in line with the “changing times,” according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“(Kim) underscored the need to prepare all the military educationists to be true soldiers immensely loyal to the idea and leadership of the party and to organize and provide the military education strictly guided by the party’s idea, policy and method so as to bring up all the cadets to be commanding officers who remain absolutely loyal to the Party Central Committee,” the KCNA reported.

Kim then called for concerted efforts to open a “period for new surge and leaping progress” for military educational revolution to ensure the “invincibility of our revolutionary forces.”

During the gathering, there was not any reported mention of the North’s nuclear force or of any particular country.

The gathering came as Kim has been seen as striving to strengthen national unity and tighten discipline among military personnel amid persistent economic woes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and crippling economic sanctions.

It was attended by leading military education workers, senior officials from the General Political Bureau of the North’s Korean People’s Army and the General Staff and other related officials.

The latest meeting of military education workers is the country’s eight such session and the second since Kim took power in late 2011. The last session took place in November 2015.

In July, Kim presided over a gathering of military commanders and political staff.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) convenes a politburo meeting of the country's ruling Worker's Party in Pyongyang on Dec. 1, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) convenes a politburo meeting of the country’s ruling Worker’s Party in Pyongyang on Dec. 1, 2021, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211207000952325?section=nk/nk

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Yonhap – S. Korea, U.S. to update war plans to deter evolving N.K. nuke, missile threats

By Song Sang-ho and Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States agreed Thursday to update their joint wartime contingency plans to deter North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats, the two sides said, in a sign of their stepped-up cooperation to reinforce deterrence against the recalcitrant regime.

Defense Minister Suh Wook and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, approved the “Strategic Planning Guidance (SPG),” a document to set the tone for updated wartime operation plans (OPLANs), during the allies’ annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).

Calls have persisted for rewriting the decade-old strategic guidance that critics said has become outdated following major advancements in the North’s weapons development programs, including its refined nuclear arms, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a hypersonic missile.

During a joint press conference with Suh, Austin took a swipe at the North’s “destabilizing” weapons programs.

“We also reaffirmed our shared assessment that the DPRK is continuing to advance its missile and weapons programs, which is increasingly destabilizing for regional security,” Austin said, referring to the North’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo before their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul on Dec. 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo before their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul on Dec. 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

But he highlighted the allies’ commitment to a “diplomatic approach” to the North.

Suh said the new SPG came as the allies shared the need to reflect on their updated war plans, the changes in North Korean threats, South Korea’s defense reform efforts and the overall “shifting strategic environment.”

The strategic guidance is designed to provide the allies’ Military Committee, led by their Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen, with authorization for a war plan, which is to be written by the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

The joint SCM communique said that the latest guidance “will guide military OPLANs to more effectively deter — and as necessary respond to — DPRK threats to the U.S.-ROK Alliance.” ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

The new guidance marks a manifestation of the allies’ resolve to harness their combined military capabilities to respond to various wartime scenarios, including the North’s use of both nuclear and conventional strikes, observers said.

The guidance is likely to pave the way for a major change to the current OPLAN 5015 that lays out a series of procedures to handle an all-out war with the North. OPLAN 5015 is known to focus largely on handling conventional attacks — a reason why calls for its replacement or an update have surfaced.

Apparently mindful of security concerns here, Austin reiterated the “firm” U.S. commitment to providing extended deterrence to South Korea “utilizing the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities,” according to the communique.

Also at the SCM, Suh and Austin pledged to conduct the full operational capability (FOC) assessment for the conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) in the fall of 2022 after a period of pandemic-driven delay.

The FOC assessment is the second part of a three-phase program to verify if South Korea is ready to lead the allies’ combined forces during wartime.

“The minister and I also agreed to conduct an FOC assessment of our future Combined Forces Command during next fall’s combined command post training,” Austin said.

“This represents an important task toward meeting the conditions necessary for OPCON transition,” he added.

Even if the FOC verification is over, the allies face the full mission capability assessment, the third and last part of the verification program, meaning it is virtually impossible for Seoul to retake wartime OPCON before the end of the Moon Jae-in administration in May next year.

South Korea handed over operational control over its troops to the U.S.-led U.N. Command during the 1950-53 Korean War. It was then transferred to the U.S.-led CFC when the command was launched in 1978.

South Korea retook peacetime OPCON in 1994, but the U.S. still possesses wartime OPCON. The wartime OPCON transfer was previously set for 2015 but was postponed, as the allies agreed in 2014 to a conditions-based handover due to Pyongyang’s rising nuclear and missile threats.

In the SCM joint statement, the minister and secretary acknowledged the importance of preserving peace and security in the Taiwan Strait — the first mention of the sensitive issue in the SCM, which analysts said signaled the expanding scope of the bilateral alliance to cover security far beyond the Korean Peninsula.

The Taiwan Strait was also mentioned in the joint statement issued at the close of the summit between Presidents Moon and Joe Biden in May.

“The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of the rules-based international order and adherence to international rules and norms, including those of freedom of navigation and overflight,” the communique reads with no mention of China.

Regarding the mention of the Taiwan issue in the communique, a defense ministry official said later that it is just a repeat of what was written in the joint statement from the White House summit in May. The official asked media not to read too much into the related stipulation in the SCM document.

The SCM statement also emphasized the U.S.’ commitment to maintaining the current level of 28,500 American troops in South Korea. Last year’s version did not mention it amid tensions over the prolonged cost-sharing negotiations for the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea.

In the statement, the two defense chiefs also pledged to closely cooperate on the relocation of the allies’ Combined Forces Command headquarters to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, by next year.

They also reaffirmed the plan for the return of parts of the U.S. military’s Yongsan Garrison in the capital by early next year, a move likely to back a mega project to build a national park there.

They agreed to work together to promote closer cooperation in strategically crucial security domains of cyberspace and space.

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211202004253325?section=national/defense#none

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Yonhap – S. Korea, U.S. to discuss possibility of advancing OPCON transfer assessment date

By Kang Yoon-seung and Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) — The militaries of South Korea and the United States will discuss the possibility of conducting an assessment required for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) earlier than the current plan of next fall, a Seoul official said Friday.

The official’s remarks came after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reportedly agreed to consider advancing the timing for the full operational capability (FOC) assessment during a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.

Just hours before the meeting, Austin and his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, announced their agreement to conduct the assessment in the fall of 2022, in an indication that the assessment would proceed only after the end of the Moon administration’s five-year term in May.

“President Moon and Secretary Austin did discuss the possibility of carrying out the FOC assessment at an earlier date,” the official at the defense ministry told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“Accordingly, the military authorities of the South and the U.S. plan to hold consultations on the matter,” the official said without specifying exactly when the talks will take place.

The FOC assessment is the second part of a three-phase program to verify if South Korea is ready to lead the allies’ combined forces during wartime.

The South and the U.S. conducted the initial operational capability test, the first step of the verification process, in 2019. The process has since slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.

South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, bump fists after a joint press conference following the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the defense ministry in Seoul on Dec. 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, bump fists after a joint press conference following the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the defense ministry in Seoul on Dec. 2, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211203005500325?section=national/defense

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The Korea Times – Military veterans’ groups join hands to help bolster Korea-US relations

By Kang Seung-woo
Korea Defense Veterans Association President Vincent Brooks, center, and KATUSA Veterans Association Chairman Kim Hae-sung, fourth from left, pose at the Millennium Hilton Hotel in Seoul, Wednesday, after signing a memorandum of understanding to work together to enhance the bilateral alliance between Korea and the United States. Third from right is Korea Times President-Publisher Oh Young-jin. Courtesy of KATUSA Veterans Association

The Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA) and the KATUSA Veterans Association (KVA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together to enhance the bilateral alliance between Korea and the United States.

KATUSA stands for Korean Augmentation to the United States Army. Under the program, Korean soldiers are given posts in U.S. military bases in the country.

The agreement was signed between KDVA President Vincent Brooks, former U.S. Forces Korea commander, and KVA Chairman Kim Hae-sung at the Millennium Hilton Hotel in Seoul, Wednesday.

According to the MOU, the two organizations will bolster cooperation in areas promoting the well-being of veterans and supporting the Korea-U.S. alliance by jointly setting up programs to facilitate education, discussion, exchanges, and research topics of interest to promote understanding between them.

Also, the two organizations will carry out joint charitable programs to honor and remember the sacrifices of armed forces personnel in Korea.

Understanding the need for regular communications or meetings on activities, they plan to hold phone or Zoom calls one or twice a year.

“I strongly believe that this MOU will commit us to work together more closely toward the next level. We will pursue many significant activities and events, such as forums, community fundraising events, charity activities and group programs to strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance,” the KVA chairman said.

Currently, the Wall of Remembrance is being built in Washington, D.C. that will display the names of 36,595 U.S. soldiers and 7,174 KATUSA soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1950-53 Korean War. As part of efforts to enhance the Korea-U.S. alliance, the KVA has raised funds for the construction of the wall, the KVA chief added.


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KDVA Changes Board of Directors

 December 1, 2021

2021년 12월 1일

The Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA) announces several changes to its Board of Directors on December 1, 2021.  KDVA says farewell to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Valcourt, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) JD Johnson, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bernard Champoux, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Troy Welch, and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Robert Winzenried.  KDVA welcomes Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Bills and Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Steven Payton.

주한미군전우회는 2021년 12월 1일 이사회의 인사 변경사항을 발표했습니다. David Valcourt (예) 중장, JD Johnson (예) 중장, Bernard Champoux (예) 중장, Troy Welch (예) 주임원사, Robert Winzenried (예) 주임원사께 그 동안의 노고에 감사를 표합니다. 주한미군전우회는 Michael Bills (예) 중장과 Steven Payton (예) 주임원사를 주한미군전우회 이사회의 새로운 일원으로서 환영합니다.

“This is a significant changing of the guard for the Association as we sincerely thank these five leaders who helped KDVA grow into its prominent role as a supporter and advocate of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and our Veterans,” stated Gen. (Ret.) Vincent Brooks, the Chairman and President of KDVA.  “Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Valcourt, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Johnson, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Champoux, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Welch, and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Winzenried were with KDVA at our founding in 2017 and through their dedication and passion for the Alliance, KDVA has grown to over 2,400 members and 26,000 Facebook followers in 4.5 years.  They have been the heart and soul of the Association as we connect people who care about Korea and the ROK-U.S. Alliance.  We are thankful for their service, and we look forward to their continued support.”

“이번 이사회의 변경은 협회의 중요한 변화를 의미합니다. 주한미군전우회가 한미동맹과 재향군인의 지지자이자 옹호자로서 탁월한 역할을 할 수 있도록 도와주신 다섯 분의 전 이사회 인사들께 진심으로 감사의 말씀을 전합니다.” 라고 주한미군전우회 회장 Vincent Brooks 장군이 말했습니다. “David Valcourt (예) 중장, JD Johnson (예) 중장, Bernard Champoux (예) 중장, Troy Welch (예) 주임원사, Robert Winzenried (예) 주임원사는 2017년 협회 창립부터 주한미군전우회와 함께했으며, 이 분들의 헌신과 열정을 통해 주한미군전우회는 4년 반만에 2,400명 이상의 회원과 26,000명의 Facebook 팔로워를 자랑하는 단체로 성장했습니다. 그들은 한국과 한미동맹을 지지하고 응원하는 이들을 연결하는 협회의 심장이자 중심이었습니다. 한국과 미국의 발전을 위한 협회의 대의를 계속하여 응원해주셔서 감사합니다.”

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Valcourt Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Johnson Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Champoux Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Welch Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Winzenried

Brooks continued, “Now joining and bringing new energy to the Board are two recent senior leaders of the Alliance, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Bills and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Steven Payton.  I know each leader to have a servant’s heart who will help KDVA bring more people to join our efforts for the Alliance and Veterans.  We are excited about the contributions they will make.”

Brooks 장군은 계속해서 다음과 같이 말했습니다. “이번 이사회에 새롭게 합류하게 된 분들은 협회에 활력을 불어넣고 있는 한미동맹의 리더 Michael Bills (예) 중장과 Steven Payton (예) 주임원사입니다. Michael Bills (예) 중장과 Steven Payton (예) 주임원사가 한미동맹과 재향 군인을 위한 주한미군전우회의 노력에 더 많은 사람들이 함께할 수 있도록 도울 마음을 가지고 있다는 것을 알고 있습니다. Michael Bills (예) 중장과 Steven Payton (예) 주임원사의 기여에 많은 기대를 하고 있습니다.”

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bills

Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Payton

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Bills is the former Commanding General of the Eighth Army and Chief of Staff of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command in Korea from 2018 to 2020.  From January 2016 to October 2017, he served as the U-3/C-3/J-3 of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea.  From March 2014 to January 2016, he was the Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division, III Corps, Fort Hood, TX and deployed to Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.  He currently works as a Contractor and Senior Control Trainer for Valiant Integrated Services.

Michael Bills (예) 중장은 전 미8군 사령관이자 2018년부터 2020년까지 한미연합사령부 참모총장으로서 역임했습니다. 2016년 1월부터 2017년 10월까지 유엔군사령부, 한미연합사령부, 주한미군사령부 작전참모부장(U3/C3/J3)을 역임했습니다. 2014년 3월부터 2016년 1월까지 그는 Fort Hood, Texas 에 있는 제3군단 제1기병사단장을 맡았고 항구적 자유 작전(Operation Enduring Freedom) 지원을 위해 아프가니스탄에 배치되었습니다. 그는 현재 Valiant Integrated Services의 Contractor 및 Senior Control Trainer로서 근무하고 있습니다.

Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Steven Payton was the former Command Sergeant Major of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea from 2016 to 2018. In his final assignment, he was selected by the U.S. Army Chief of Staff to serve as the first Senior Enlisted Army Fellow/Advisor at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He currently works as a consultant for several organizations including TopSarge Business Solutions and TechMasters, Inc.

Steven Payton (예) 주임원사는 2016년부터 2018년까지 유엔군사령부, 한미연합사령부, 주한미군사령부의 주임원사를 역임했습니다. 또한, Steven Payton (예) 주임원사는 미 육군 참모총장으로부터 미국 재향군인회 최초의 선임부사관 육군 연구위원/자문위원으로 선출되었습니다. 그는 현재 TopSarge Business Solutions 및 TechMasters, Inc.를 포함한 여러 조직의 컨설턴트로 근무하고 있습니다.

KDVA has built a reputation as a premier association that supports and advocates for the people who built the ROK-U.S. Alliance and continue to serve it in U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command.  KDVA is a 501C(3) non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Virginia.  Please contact KDVA at contact@kdva.vet, visit http://www.kdva.vet, and follow us on Facebook ( @kdva.us) and Twitter ( @KDVAvets).

주한미군전우회는 한미동맹을 탄생시키고, 유지를 위해 힘쓰는 이들을 지원하고 옹호하며 주한미군사령부와 한미연합사령부에서 복무하는 이들을 지지하는 최고의 협회로 명성을 쌓아왔습니다. 주한미군전우회는 버지니아 주에서 설립된 501C(3) 비영리 단체입니다. http://www.kdva.vet를 방문하여 contact@kdva.vet로 연락 주십시오. Facebook(@kdva.us) 및 Twitter(@KDVAvets)에서도 KDVA를 팔로우해주시기 바랍니다. 감사합니다.

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Yonhap – Panmunjom tours resume after monthslong suspension due to coronavirus

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) — Tours to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom resumed Tuesday after a monthslong hiatus attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

The tour program to the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, which was suspended in July, resumed after South Korea shifted to a “living with COVID-19” scheme earlier in the month.

The tour program will be held once a day at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and capped at 20 people per visit.

Visitors are required to be fully vaccinated or submit negative PCR test results taken within three days before their tour.

The unification ministry earlier said it will consider expanding visits to the truce village if the virus situation improves. But authorities recently decided to halt further easing distancing rules as the country grapples with a rise in new infections amid concerns over the global spread of a new virus variant, omicron.

“For now we will proceed with the tour program as planned and decide whether to impose additional anti-virus measures depending on the following situation,” a ministry official said.

Buses carrying visitors to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom depart the Panmunjom Tourist Support Center in the border city of Paju on Nov. 30, 2021, as tours to the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas resumed on the day. (Yonhap)

Buses carrying visitors to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom depart the Panmunjom Tourist Support Center in the border city of Paju on Nov. 30, 2021, as tours to the Joint Security Area inside the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas resumed on the day. (Yonhap)

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211130006100325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – Pentagon chief to visit S. Korea this week for annual security talks

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Seoul this week for annual defense talks with his South Korean counterpart on the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), North Korean threats, cybersecurity and other issues, Seoul officials have said.

Austin is set to depart for South Korea on Tuesday (Washington time) to attend the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) slated for Thursday. It marks the first SCM between Seoul’s Defense Minister Suh Wook and Austin since the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in January.

The SCM comes as Seoul and Washington have been stepping up coordination to resume nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, despite indications of Pyongyang doubling down on its nuclear and missile programs.

High on the agenda is the conditions-based wartime OPCON transition, after which a four-star South Korean general is to lead the allies’ combined forces during wartime. Currently, the U.S. has the wartime OPCON, while the South has the peacetime OPCON.

The two sides are expected to discuss when and how they will conduct the full operational capability (FOC) test of the three-stage program designed to verify South Korea’s capabilities required for the OPCON handover.

In 2019, the allies completed the initial operational capability (IOC) test. But they have yet to complete the FOC test, the second part of the verification program. The full mission capability (FMC) test is the last part of the program.

The allies’ discussions related to the FOC test have been proceeding in a “very amicable” atmosphere, a Seoul official said last week — remarks that raised hopes for progress in related consultations between the two sides.

Suh and Austin also plan to discuss ways to beef up cybersecurity cooperation, including the resumption of the “Cyber Cooperation Working Group” — an apparatus that the allies agreed to form years ago but have yet to fully activate due to administrative and other issues.

Space cooperation is another key topic, as Washington has sought to rally its allies and partners to promote the secure, sustainable use of outer space amid signs of an arms race in the new security domain.

In addition, the minister and the secretary plan to discuss ways to back up ongoing diplomacy to encourage Pyongyang’s return to dialogue and bring the stalled efforts for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula back on track.

At the SCM, the two sides are also expected to touch on the ongoing process of returning U.S. military bases at the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul to ensure Seoul’s mega project to build a national park there can proceed as planned.

In a press release last week, the Pentagon said that at the SCM, “both sides are expected to pledge to continue to develop the alliance — the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia — in a mutually reinforcing and future-oriented manner.”

Aside from Suh and Austin, the SCM will also be attended by the allies’ top defense officials, including Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-choul and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, as well as Adm. John C. Aquilino, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Paul LaCamera, the chief of the U.S. Forces Korea.

On the eve of the SCM, Gen. Won and Gen. Milley, will also meet for the 46th Military Committee Meeting to discuss North Korea-related security situations and the defense posture of the allied forces.

Also on Wednesday, Suh and Austin are to attend an annual alliance dinner session hosted by the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation and the Korea Defense Veterans Association.

In this March 17, 2021, file photo, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo prior to their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

In this March 17, 2021, file photo, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo prior to their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211129002000325?section=national/defense

News articles do not necessarily reflect the views of KDVA. Any copyrighted materials depicted on this web site are presented for educational purposes only and no claim of ownership is made by KDVA.

Read more