SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The United States Secretary of Defense says China’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons “increases tensions in the region.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the remarks in Seoul on Thursday following annual security talks with his South Korean counterpart.
Austin said that the US was concerned about China’s military capabilities and called Beijing “challenging our pace”.
He said the US would “maintain our defense and deterrence capabilities against a range of potential threats from (China) to ourselves and our allies.”
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The AP’s earlier story is below:
The defense ministers of South Korea and the United States met on Thursday for their annual talks, as Washington pushes to strengthen alliances with its partners to limit rising challenges from China and the United States. North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.
Following the talks, the allies are expected to announce a push for their decades-long military alliance while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is likely to reaffirm the expanded deterrence of the United States. America towards South Korea by making full use of its military capabilities.
However, some experts say the alliance still faces challenges such as Seoul’s historic dispute with Japan, another key US ally in the region, and its reluctance to join the alliance. join US-led initiatives aimed at China.
“The US-Korea Alliance is a pillar of peace and security in this region and we will work together as we move towards a #FreeandOpenIndoPacific,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted upon arrival in South Korea. China on Wednesday, referring to a regional initiative aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon released the results of a global posture assessment aimed at working additionally with allies and partners to deter “potential military aggression by China and other foreign relations.” threat from North Korea”. The review also informed Austin of approving the permanent stationing of a former rotating attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in Korea.
South Korean defense officials called the content of the review a sign that both Seoul and Washington value the alliance.
Thursday’s Security Consultative Meeting between Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook was the first between the two defense ministers since President Joe Biden took office in January.
Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, an alliance cemented by blood during the 1950-53 Korean War, was tested when Trump threatened to pull US troops out of South Korea if Seoul didn’t step up its support. financial support for them. Trump has also repeatedly complained about the cost of regular military exercises between Washington and Seoul.
In recent years, the United States and South Korea have also canceled or reduced some of their military exercises in support of their now suspended nuclear diplomacy with North Korea and as a step to safeguard protect their troops from COVID-19. North Korea has called such drills an invasion rehearsal and responded with costly military exercises or weapons tests of its own.
Despite the severe economic difficulties related to the pandemic, North Korea repeatedly rejected the US offer to resume talks, saying that Washington must first give up its hostility towards the North. The Biden administration has argued that international sanctions against North Korea will remain in place unless the country takes concrete steps towards denuclearization.
North Korean state media on Thursday quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying the North Korean economy had been managed stably with successes in the agriculture and construction sectors, a claim that cannot be asserted. Independence. They said North Korea would hold a key meeting at the end of December to determine policy goals for next year.
South Korea has been reluctant to join US-led regional initiatives to test China’s rise as its export-oriented economy relies heavily on China, its major trading partner. their best. Seoul’s diplomatic and trade tensions with Japan, largely rooted in Tokyo’s past colonization of the Korean Peninsula, also raise the prospect of the United States pushing to fortify trilateral security cooperation. with two key Asian allies.
Last month, a US-sponsored coalition rally with South Korea and Japan stumbled after US diplomats were unable to convince their Asian allies to share a post-meeting press conference stage. in Washington due to what Seoul calls a dispute over islands claimed by both Souths. Korea and Japan.
Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Seoul’s Ewha University.
Some experts say that whether South Korea can significantly strengthen its alliance with the US and participate in regional security initiatives will be largely influenced by who wins the presidential election. Korea in March.
Lee Jae-myung, the ruling libertarian candidate, favors pragmatic diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, while his main conservative rival Yoon Suk Yeol said that if elected, he would strengthen it. security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo to better deal with threats from North Korea.
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