S. Korea, U.S. defense, foreign ministers hold "2+2" talks about Korean Peninsula, regional issues

(Xinhua) 13:54, March 18, 2021

SEOUL, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Defense and foreign ministers of South Korea and the United States held the so-called "two plus two" talks in Seoul on Thursday about the Korean Peninsula and regional issues.

The meeting, the first held in about four and a half years since October 2016, was attended by Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Defense Minister Suh Wook of South Korea, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The joint statement, released after the meeting, said the two sides reaffirmed that the South Korea-U.S. alliance serves as the "linchpin of peace, security and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region."

The two sides also reaffirmed a mutual commitment to the defense of South Korea and to the strengthening of the South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture, consistent with the South Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.

Following the meeting, chief negotiators from the two allies initialed a tentative deal on the 11th Special Measures Agreement (SMA), a South Korea-U.S. pact to share the upkeep cost for about 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, with the observation of the four ministers.

The SMA, requiring a respective internal process, such as parliamentary approval, to be formally signed, was reached earlier this month in Washington. Under the deal that will last until 2025, South Korea will raise its burden to share the military cost in accordance with the growth rate of the country's annual defense budget.

The "two plus two" meeting statement said the SMA is a symbol of the shared commitment to the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

The statement repeated the two sides' firm commitment to the conditions-based transfer of the wartime operational control of South Korean forces from the United States, to which Seoul and Washington agreed in 2006.

South Korea's wartime command was handed over to the U.S. forces after the 1950-53 Korean War broke out. South Korea won back its peacetime operational control in 1994.

The ministers emphasized in the statement that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and ballistic missile issues are a priority for the alliance, reaffirming a shared commitment to address and resolve the issues.

They also affirmed the importance of South Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral cooperation, pledging to continue promoting mutually-beneficial, forward-looking cooperation to promote peace, security and prosperity in the region.

The statement reiterated the resolve of the two sides to continue to work together to create "a free and open Indo-Pacific region" through cooperation with South Korea's New Southern Policy.

Blinken and Austin came here Wednesday after visiting Japan on the first cabinet-level overseas trip by U.S. President Joe Biden's administration members.


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