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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ambassador to U.S. vows allies will strengthen joint deterrence against North

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Cho Tae-yong, South Korea's ambassador to the United States, speaks to Korean correspondents at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington on Oct. 27. [YONHAP]
Cho Tae-yong, South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, speaks to Korean correspondents at the Korean Cultural Center in Washington on Oct. 27. [YONHAP]

South Korea’s ambassador to the United States said Tuesday the allies will work closely together to strengthen joint deterrence against threats from North Korea and also improve human rights in the North.

Ambassador Cho Tae-yong also said the allies will cooperate to cut off sources of funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs.

“South Korea and the United States are enhancing their joint deterrent and defense capabilities through close cooperation in all areas,” Cho said in a meeting with reporters in Washington.

“Above all, [South Korea] will cooperate closely with the United States to enhance the implementation of U.S. extended deterrence,” he added.

The ambassador’s press conference came hours after a similar announcement on Tuesday by South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during the latter’s visit to Seoul.

The U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday also released a Korean language version of its 2022 Nuclear Posture Review on Tuesday, likely as part of its public messaging to assuage South Korean fears about the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrence commitment.

U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl wrote on Twitter that the latest Nuclear Policy Review “reaffirms a continuing commitment to a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent” and “strong and credible extended deterrence.”

Ambassador Cho said the allies will also work to bring North Korea back to talks this year by applying additional pressure, such as cutting off its funding sources for its illicit weapons programs.

Cho said the allies will also work to branch out from military cooperation to other strategic sectors this year.

“We are also looking at ways to expand the South Korea-U.S. alliance from traditional areas of defense, security and economic relations to science technology and space,” he said.

Cho also expressed optimism regarding President Joe Biden’s appointment of Julie Turner, director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State, as the new special U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, a post that has been vacant since 2017.

Cho said Seoul and Washington will work to “further strengthen their practical cooperation on North Korean human rights.”

North Korea often bristles at criticism of its human rights record.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry called for the United Nations to abolish its human rights office in Seoul after it co-hosted a conference featuring the United Nations special envoy for North Korean human rights.

The statement from the ministry, authored by Jang Chol-ho, a researcher at Pyongyang’s Korean Association for Human Rights Studies, accused the United Nations office in Seoul of seeking to “[undermine] the external image of our country at the instigation of the United States.”

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]