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(LEAD) Military chiefs of S. Korea, U.S. hold annual talks in Seoul

10:48 November 14, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS title, lead as the meeting starts; ADDS more details in paras 2-3; CHANGES photos)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- The military chiefs of South Korea and the United States held annual talks in Seoul on Thursday to discuss the regional security situation and alliance issues, including a soon-to-expire military intelligence-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, held the 44th Military Committee Meeting (MCM) at the JCS building in Seoul. Milley arrived here on Wednesday as part of his first trip to the Indo-Pacific region since taking office, according to officials.

The meeting was to last until the afternoon, and the two countries are planning to issue a joint press release, they added.

Gen. Park Han-ki (L), chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, talk to each other while inspecting an honor guard during a ceremony at the JCS headquarters in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2019, to welcome the U.S. military leader. (Yonhap)

During the meeting, the two sides plan to jointly assess the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and discuss their joint defense posture, according to South Korea's JCS.

They will also review the results of the initial operational capability (IOC) test for the conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), which was conducted by the allies during their combined exercise in August. The exercise was to verify whether Seoul is on course to meet the conditions for the transition.

The conditions for the transfer are Seoul's capability to lead the allies' combined defense mechanism, its capacity for initial responses to the North's nuclear and missile threats and a stable security environment on the peninsula and in the region.

The MCM is held every year before the defense ministers of the two countries hold the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM). This year's SCM is planned for Friday.

"During the talks, Park will explain to the new U.S. JCS chairman the current security environments on the peninsula and key pending issues and ask for support for Seoul's related policy measures," the JCS said.

The meeting is to take place at a time when North Korea has fired missiles amid little progress in its denuclearization negotiations with the U.S. The communist country launched short-range projectiles, including ballistic missiles, 11 times so far this year, and launched a new version of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Oct. 2.

The Seoul-Tokyo military information-sharing pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), is also expected to be on the table. The agreement, which was signed in 2016, is to expire on Nov. 23, after South Korea decided to end it in response to Japan's export curbs amid a row over wartime forced labor.

On Tuesday, Milley told reporters in Japan, "It'll be a point in discussion (in South Korea). So we want to try to resolve that issue before it expires."

The U.S. has urged Seoul to reconsider the decision, as it sees the pact as a key mechanism for trilateral security cooperation with its two allies in Northeast Asia and beyond in the context of an increasingly assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

A ceremony to welcome U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Mark Milley is held at the JCS headquarters in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2019. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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