De­fense min­is­ter vis­its US to dis­cuss mil­i­tary buildup

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Jun Ji-hye jjh@ktimes.com

De­fense Min­is­ter Song Young-moo left for the United States Tues­day for talks with U.S. of­fi­cials on North Korean mat­ters and other pend­ing bi­lat­eral is­sues.

Song’s tour to the U.S. comes amid height­ened mil­i­tary ten­sion fol­low­ing the North’s mis­sile provo­ca­tion ear­lier in the day in which it launched what was pre­sumed to be an in­ter­me­di­ate bal­lis­tic mis­sile (IRBM) over Ja­pan.

Song is sched­uled to hold a meet­ing with U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis at the Pen­tagon, Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense.

Dur­ing his five-day visit, the South Korean of­fi­cial will also meet with Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster and the Com­man­der of the Pa­cific Com­mand, Adm. Harry Har­ris, the min­istry added.

“I strongly con­demn North Korea’s reck­less provo­ca­tion that raises ten­sion on the Korean Penin­sula,” Song said at the In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port. “I came to the air­port af­ter at­tend­ing a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ses­sion at Cheong Wa Dae Tues­day morn­ing.

I will dis­cuss rel­e­vant counter- mea­sures with the U.S. de­fense chief and the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.”

The min­istry said the bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the de­fense chiefs of the two na­tions has been achieved at the re­quest of South Korea amid evolv­ing threats from the North’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Song is ex­pected to ask the U.S. govern­ment to sup­port South Korea’s move to amend the two coun­tries’ 2012 re­vi­sion of mis­sile guide­lines. Through the amend­ment, Seoul is seek­ing to in­crease the weight of the war­head for its 800-kilo­me­ter range bal­lis­tic mis­sile as the 2012 re­vi­sion does not al­low the pay­load for this mis­sile to ex­ceed 500 kilo­grams.

The South Korean govern­ment was orig­i­nally seek­ing to dou­ble the max­i­mum weight of the war­head to 1 ton, but this plan has been changed to re­move lim­its on the pay­load of the mis­sile, ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

Nu­clear sub

As part of the ef­forts to bol­ster the de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Song is also ex­pected to men­tion the need to build the na­tion’s own nu­clear-pow­ered submarines to bet­ter counter threats from North Korean sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Build­ing such submarines was one of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s elec­tion pledges, but it re­mains un­clear whether the United States sup­ports this. A nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion deal be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton al­lows South Korea to en­rich ura­nium to a level of 20 per­cent when us­ing U.S. ma­te­ri­als, but dis­al­lows ura­nium en­rich­ment for mil­i­tary pur­poses.

Wartime con­trol

Other agenda is­sues would in­clude a time­line for Seoul to take back wartime op­er­a­tional con­trol (OPCON) of South Korean forces from the U.S. and the on­go­ing de­ploy­ment of the U.S. Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem on the Korean Penin­sula.

Song Young-moo Jim Mat­tis

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