The United States and South Korea have resumed high-level talks on military cooperation amid US pledges of a continued flow of strategic weapons to the Korean Peninsula.
The vice ministerial-level meeting of the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) opened on Friday in the US capital, Washington, DC, after a years-long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, denouncing North Korea's recent first-use nuclear doctrine unveiled this month as "escalatory and destabilizing".
In his opening remarks, Seoul's Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong criticized Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs as a "serious threat" to peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the overall Indo-Pacific region, saying the resumption of the EDSCG conveyed a "strong" message to Pyongyang.
Last week, North Korea announced a new nuclear policy, asserting that it will never surrender its nuclear weapons to its enemies, or use the nation's nuclear capability as a bargaining chip for denuclearization with the US.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un asserted that the new policy makes the country's nuclear status "irreversible", ending denuclearization talks.
In a joint statement after the EDSCG meeting, Seoul and Washington vowed to further strengthen their military cooperation.
"The United States committed to strengthen coordination with the ROK [Republic of Korea] to continue to deploy and exercise strategic assets in the region in a timely and effective manner to deter and respond to the DPRK [North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)] and enhance regional security," it said.
The United States and South Korea warned that North Korea's resumption of nuclear testing "would be met with a strong and resolute whole-of-government response."
The two countries reaffirmed that they will "stand ready for all possible scenarios," the statement added.
Observers say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, after historic summits with then-US President Donald Trump in 2018 failed to persuade Kim to surrender the nation's nukes.
North Korea remains concerned by the US military presence in South Korea, and for that Pyongyang says it reserves the right to defend itself in case of a potential attack or invasion.
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