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S. Korean, U.S. defense chiefs reaffirm ironclad alliance and watertight consultations Updated: 2018-06-29 07:04:44 KST

In their opening statement before their closed-door meeting, the two defense chiefs reaffirmed their steadfast and ironclad alliance, vowing that they will continue (quote) "watertight" consultations, at a time when major changes are happening on the Korean peninsula.

"We're standing at a turning point between the dark shadow of conflict and confrontation that hung over the Korean peninsula for the last 70 years, and the brighter new history of peace and cooperation. This is a precious opportunity made by President Moon and U.S. President Trump's vision and decisions. South Korea and the U. S. pledge their utmost effort to ensure that this opportunity not only leads to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula, but also Northeast Asia and the world."

They also confirmed the decision to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise, originally scheduled for this August.
Mattis said the suspension of the joint military exercises will create a better environment for diplomats to negotiate with the North.

"The recent decision to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise creates an increased opportunity for our diplomats to negotiate, increasing the prospects for a peaceful solution on the Korean Peninsula. At the same time the U.S. and ROK forces remain united, vigilant and ready to defend against any challenge."

The suspension of the Freedom Guardian exercise, however, doesn't mean that the two countries will suspend all future military drills.
Military sources told Arirang News that the two defense chiefs agreed that the two countries will decide the timing, scope and scale of future joint military drills and announce the details together, considering the North's progress in denuclearization and the military's combat readiness.
Mattis also stressed that the U.S. will maintain its current troop levels on the Peninsula.

"U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea remains ironclad and the U.S. will continue to use a full range of diplomatic and military capabilities to uphold this commitment. This includes maintaining the current the U.S. force levels on the Korean peninsula."

The two leaders also shared a common view that international sanctions on the North should remain in effect,.. until Pyongyang takes concrete and irreversible steps for denuclearization.
The two defense chiefs also briefly discussed the transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, but didn't reveal many details of those discussions.
They stressed that this year marks the 65th anniversary of the signing of the bilateral mutual defense treaty and 50 years of close consultation through annual joint security consultative meetings, and they vowed to further strengthen the alliance,.. in pursuit of the shared goal of peace in the region.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.
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