US, South Korea sign military pact

US, South Korea sign military pact

SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
US, South Korea sign military pact

North Korea’s military drills are a major concern for Seoul. AFP photo

A new South Korea-U.S. pact providing for a joint military response even to low-level provocation by North Korea offers an added deterrent at a time of elevated tension, the South’s Defense Ministry said yesterday.

The two allies signed the military agreement on March 22 in a move likely to fuel fresh outrage in Pyongyang which has spent the past few weeks denouncing joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises.

While existing agreements provide for U.S. engagement in the event of a full-scale conflict, the new protocol addresses the response to a low-level action such as a limited cross-border incursion. “This allows both nations to jointly respond to the North’s local provocations, with the South taking the lead and the U.S. in support,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

“It will have the effect of preventing the North from daring to provoke us,” Kim told reporters.

The U.S. has close to 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea with the option to bring in reinforcements from its military bases in Japan.

The “provocative” scenarios envisaged by the new pact include maritime border incursions, shelling of border islands, and infiltration by low-flying fighter jets or by special forces units.

Angered by U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in February, North Korea has issued a wave of threats over the past month, ranging from a surgical military strike to nuclear war.