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'Firmer and Stronger': South Korea, US to Enhance Defense Against Pyongyang

South Korea and the US have agreed to beef up their defense readiness measures against the North’s provocations at an annual Military Committee Meeting (MCM) in Washington on Thursday.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Gen. Joseph F. Dunford hosted the 41st MCM at the Pentagon on October 13. Dunford's South Korean counterpart Gen. Lee Sun-jin attended the meeting with a delegation that included Navy Rear Adm. Chung An Ho, acting chief director of strategic planning at JCS.

MH-47 Chinook Helicopter (file) - Sputnik International
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For several years the MCM was conducted via videoconferencing, and it is for the first time since 2010 that the allies met face-to-face to analyze the security situation on the Korean peninsula. Both military leaders criticized the provocations by Pyongyang saying that they are a grave threat to peace and stability not just in the region but in the world.

According to South Korea's JCS press release, Gen. Lee emphasized that the two countries will continue cooperation in a bid to respond effectively to North Korean nuclear and missile threats. The bilateral work will include enhancement of missile defense capabilities before the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

"Gen. Lee also said it is vital to strengthen the bilateral mutual-assistance system against the North's development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles." The release read.

According to a statement by Pentagon, Gen. Dunford affirmed that despite the threat coming from North Korea, the US is committed to defending its partner in Asia and that the alliance between the US and South Korea will keep growing "firmer and stronger".

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter lands onto the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered super carrier, during a joint naval drill between South Korea and the U.S. (File) - Sputnik International
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Observers noted that the two military chiefs might have discussed the possible dispatch of a US Aegis destroyer equipped with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors to the peninsula and the additional deployment of Patriot missiles.

In July, the two nations agreed to deploy the anti-missile system in the Seongju County by the end of next year as a precaution against North Korea following its recent ballistic missile tests and two powerful nuclear tests over the past year despite warning by the international community.

China and Russia have both opposed the THAAD deployment, arguing the system could be applied beyond deterring North Korea and affect Chinese and Russian interests in the region.

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