Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin said North Korean aggression “is not to be tolerated” and agreed to deepen deterrent capabilities against Kim Jong Il’s regime.
“North Korea should abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs via verifiable and irreversible measures,” the two ministers said in a statement after meeting today in Seoul. Panetta said the U.S. remains committed to strengthening “extended deterrence” for its Asian ally.
Panetta has used his first trip to Asia since taking office in July to urge more regional security coordination to counter North Korea’s “serious threats” and Chinese military expansion. The U.S. resumed direct talks with North Korea on Oct. 24 in Geneva as Chinese Vice Premier Le Keqiang was meeting Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
Tensions have risen on the Korean peninsula following two attacks last year that killed 50 South Koreans. While the two sides agreed in July to try to revive six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear-weapons program, there has been little progress.
“Pyongyang has demonstrated its readiness to conduct provocations that cost innocent lives,” Panetta said at a press conference with Kim, according to a pool report. The U.S. and South Korea are working on a “counter-provocation plan” that will be completed “within the year,” he said.
South Korean President Lee Myung Bak met with U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month in Washington and the two said North Korea must cease attacks such as the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March 2010 that killed 46 South Korean sailors and the November shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. North Korea denied involvement in the Cheonan attack.
Kim’s regime abandoned the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks involving the U.S., South Korea, Japan, China and Russia in April 2009. North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a cease-fire.
--Editors: John Brinsley, Peter Hirschberg
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