South Korea and the U.S. on Thursday said they have decided to update war plans to counter North Korea's increasing nuclear threats.
This was discussed at the annual Security Consultative Meeting held in Seoul between Defense Minister Suh Wook and his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin.
Austin said they reaffirmed a shared assessment that the North is continuing to advance its missile and weapons programs, which is increasingly destabilizing for regional security.
"We also approved new strategic planning guidance, an important step forward to frame forthcoming alliance planning."
Strategic planning guidance is a guideline to set the tone for updated wartime operation plans.
Based on this guidance, the two countries will be writing new war plans although this will take some time.
It's the first time in 11 years that this is being updated as it was last revised in 2010.
"Also at the meeting, the top defense officials pledged to conduct the full operational capability assessment by next year."
This assessment is the second part of the three-phase program to verify if South Korea is ready to lead the allies' combined forces during wartime.
"We also reaffirmed that the conditions listed in the 'wartime operational control transition plan' should be met… to implement the transition. And we decided to conduct the full operational capability assessment by 2022."
As for the U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. pledged to maintain its current troop levels in order to defend South Korea.
In the joint statement, the minister and secretary also acknowledged the importance of preserving peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.
This is the first time that the sensitive issue was mentioned in the annual SCM meeting.
The statement also said that Secretary Austin noted the Indo-Pacific region is the defense department’s (quote) "priority theater" in what is seen as an effort to counter China.
Bae Eun-ji, Arirang News.