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54th Security Consultative Meeting Joint Communique

1. The 54th United States (U.S.)-Republic of Korea (ROK) Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) was held in Washington, D.C. on November 3, 2022.

   William J. Smith

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and ROK Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup led their respective delegations, which included senior defense and foreign affairs officials. On October 19, 2022, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and ROK Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Kim Seung-Kyum presided over the 47th ROK-U.S. Military Committee Meeting (MCM). 

2.    The Secretary and the Minister reaffirmed the shared vision of both nations for a global comprehensive strategic alliance as contained in the May 2022 U.S.-ROK Presidential Summit in Seoul. They emphasized the commitment of both countries in promoting democratic norms, human rights, and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region. They further shared their common understanding that the U.S.-ROK Alliance is based on the same principles and shared values including: mutual trust, freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. 

The Secretary and the Minister assessed that the U.S.-ROK Alliance is strong and reaffirmed the two nations' mutual commitment to a combined defense posture consistent with the U.S-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty to defend the ROK. The two leaders resolved to continue to strengthen the Alliance to remain postured to defend against and respond to Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) aggression and preserve stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. 

The Secretary and the Minister noted that the SCM has played a pivotal role in the continued development of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, and is to continue to be a cornerstone venue to discuss and affirm national commitments. Both sides pledged to continue to develop the Alliance—the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Indo-Pacific region— into a deep and comprehensive strategic relationship.

In particular, marking the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance in 2023, the Secretary and the Minister recognized the value of the Alliance and pledged to hold various joint events to lay a foundation for the development of the Alliance in the future. 

3.    The Secretary and the Minister reviewed the current security environment in and around the Korean Peninsula and the region and discussed cooperative measures between the two nations. The Minister expressed concern about DPRK violations of the 'Comprehensive Military Agreement,' including repetitive multiple rocket launcher firings. The Secretary and minister strongly condemned the DPRK's escalatory activities and violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including ballistic missile test launches, multiple rocket launches, and firing of coastal artillery and called upon the international community to hold the DPRK responsible for its actions. Both sides also expressed concern that the DPRK's ongoing efforts to develop nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, as well as its escalatory rhetoric regarding the use of tactical nuclear weapons, and its proliferation activities. They noted that these actions present profound challenges to the international community and pose an increasingly serious threat to the security and stability of the region and the world. Secretary Austin also expressed his concern on the DPRK's attempts to develop various nuclear weapons, as well as means of delivery. Secretary Austin reiterated the firm U.S. commitment to providing extended deterrence to the ROK utilizing the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities and advanced non-nuclear capabilities. He noted that any nuclear attack against the United States or its Allies and partners, including the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons, is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime. They pledged to further strengthen the Alliance's capabilities, information sharing, and consultation process, as well as joint planning and execution, to deter and respond to DPRK's advancing nuclear and missile threats. Both leaders also reaffirmed the commitment of the U.S. to deploy United States strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary, to enhance such measures, and identify new steps to reinforce deterrence in the face of the DPRK's destabilizing activities.

The two leaders assessed that bilateral mechanisms such as the Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD), the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG), and the Deterrence Strategy Committee (DSC) serve to strengthen the Alliance combined deterrence posture. They pledged to continue close consultation through these mechanisms to identify means to further strengthen extended deterrence. The Secretary and the Minister applauded progress on revising the Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) within the DSC, which upon completion is to provide a framework on deterrence and response in order to better prepare for the DPRK's advancing nuclear and missile threats. The two leaders encouraged the DSC to make significant progress toward completion of the TDS ahead of 55th SCM. The Secretary and the Minister further pledged to conduct the DSC Table-top-exercise (TTX) annually, which is to include a DPRK nuclear use scenario, in response to recent changes in DPRK nuclear strategy and capabilities. Going forward, the two leaders concurred on the importance of focusing efforts to deter DPRK nuclear weapon use and pledged to seek new measures to demonstrate Alliance's determination and capabilities. The Secretary and the Minister also expressed their determination to maintain close Alliance coordination, especially with regards to strategic communication, to respond effectively to any future provocation. 

The Secretary and the Minister closely consulted on both nations' policies to effectively deter and respond to DPRK's nuclear and missile threats, including the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Missile Defense Review (MDR), and the reinforcement of the ROK 3K Defense System. The Secretary and the Minister noted the efforts to strengthen Alliance's missile response capabilities and posture by establishing the two subordinate groups under the DSC: the newly established Counter-Missile Working Group (CMWG) and the reactivated Program Analysis Working Group for the U.S.-ROK Missile Defense (PAWG) in response to advancing DPRK missile threats.

4.    The two sides pledged to continue coordination and cooperation toward achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as pursuing steps to encourage the DPRK to choose a path leading to denuclearization and a brighter future. Secretary Austin welcomed the ROK's Audacious Initiative as a positive effort to encourage progress towards denuclearization. The Secretary and the Minister stressed the importance of efforts to resume diplomacy and dialogue, and called for full implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) by the entire international community, including the DPRK. The Secretary and the Minister urged the DPRK to abide by its obligations under the existing UNSCRs as well as its previous commitments and agreements. The Secretary and the Minister also concurred on the need for a concerted effort by the international community to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula, while noting that next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement. The Secretary and the Minister concurred that the efforts by the ROK and the DPRK to faithfully abide by the Armistice Agreement and previous agreements in a mutual manner is necessary to ease military tensions and build trust on the Korean Peninsula. Minister Lee further conveyed the ROK's position that the Northern Limit Line (NLL) has been an effective means of separating ROK and DPRK military forces and preventing military tension. The two leaders reaffirmed that they would continue to closely cooperate in pursuit of these objectives, expressed their support for diplomatic efforts as the most preferred path, and concurred that such diplomatic efforts must be backed by a robust and credible combined defense posture.  

5.    The Secretary and the Minister also reflected on the critical role that U.S. forces in the ROK have played for more than 69 years, and reaffirmed that U.S. Forces Korea USFK is to continue to play an important role in preventing armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, and in promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Secretary Austin also noted that the Indo-Pacific region is the Department of Defense's priority theater, reaffirmed the ironclad commitment of the United States to the combined defense of the ROK, and reiterated the U.S. commitment to maintain current USFK force levels in order to defend the ROK. He highlighted the increased frequency and intensity of U.S. strategic asset deployments, consistent with the Presidents' commitments to enhance rotational deployments of U.S. strategic assets in and around the Korean Peninsula, as tangible evidence of the U.S. commitment to defend the ROK.

Secretary Austin and Minister Lee also reaffirmed the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) in maintaining and enforcing the Armistice Agreement and coordinating multinational contributions to security on the Korean Peninsula. Both leaders reaffirmed that the UNC has contributed to the successful maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula for over 70 years, and that it will continue to carry out its mission and tasks with the utmost respect for ROK sovereignty. 

The Secretary and the Minister recognized ROK efforts to establish the conditions for the stable stationing of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery at Camp Carroll. The Secretary and the Minister committed to continuing close cooperation for normalizing routine and unfettered access to the THAAD site.

6.    The Secretary and the Minister received a report on the results of the U.S.-ROK MCM from the U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command (CFC) Commander, General Paul J. LaCamera. Based on the report, they committed to enhance combined defense capabilities against DPRK threats, strengthen nuclear and WMD deterrence and response posture of the CFC, conduct the systematic and stable transition of operational control (OPCON), and update relevant operation plans (OPLANs). The two leaders also assessed that there was significant progress in effectively responding to a variety of security challenges following changes to the strategic environment.

7.    The Secretary and Minister concurred on the need to enhance combined exercises and training events to strengthen readiness against DPRK nuclear and missile threats, particularly given the security environment following the DPRK's most recent missile tests. The two leaders assessed that the Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) 22-1 and the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise contributed to maintaining combined readiness. In particular, they recognized that the UFS exercise restored a realistic theater-level combined exercise system. They also assessed that the combined field exercise intensively performed in conjunction with the UFS exercise OPLAN added strength to the U.S-ROK combined defense posture and military readiness. Both leaders pledged to closely cooperate to return to large-scale field exercises in line with combined exercises in 2023, noting that training for defensive and deterrent purposes is a critical component of maintaining Alliance readiness. The two sides assessed that the U.S.-ROK Alliance must continue to focus on combat readiness and on the combined defense posture to address dynamic changes on the Korean Peninsula.

8.    The Secretary and the Minister emphasized that continuous training opportunities for USFK are critical to maintaining a strong combined defense posture. Secretary Austin noted the efforts of the ROK's Ministry of National Defense (MND) for the improvement of the combined training conditions and the two leaders pledged to maintain close cooperation to achieve additional progress. Both leaders concurred on the importance of communication and cooperation between USFK and MND to coordinate the joint use of ROK facilities and airspace for U.S. and ROK training to maintain effective combined readiness. The two leaders also noted that the ROK Government's plan to establish a combined joint multi-purpose live-fire training complex is a strategic approach to significantly improve the training conditions of both nations, and shared a common understanding on the need to expedite efforts to establish the complex.

9.    The Secretary and the Minister recognized the Combined Forces Command (CFC) as the symbol of the Alliance and core of the combined defense system, and its central role in deterring war on the Korean Peninsula and defending the ROK since its establishment in 1978. The two leaders also expressed their expectation that the CFC Headquarters relocation would contribute to a stable transition of wartime OPCON in accordance with the Alliance Guiding Principles and the Conditions-based OPCON Transition Plan (COTP). Furthermore, the Secretary and the Minister pledged to work together to establish a strong combined defense posture based on further and enhanced Alliance spirit and operational efficiency capabilities at Pyeongtaek base (U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys), a new cradle of the Alliance.

10.    The Secretary and the Minister assessed that significant progress had been made in meeting the conditions for wartime OPCON transition. After reviewing the progress on directed tasks from the COTP, the two leaders discussed the way forward for wartime OPCON transition to the Future Combined Forces Command (F-CFC). The Secretary and the Minister also reaffirmed that the conditions stated in the bilaterally approved COTP must be met before the wartime OPCON is fully transitioned to the F-CFC.

The two leaders applauded the progress made in completing all eight COTP Annexes and approved  the completed set of the COTP annexes with appendices and tabs recommended by the 22-2 COTP Permanent Military Committee. The Secretary and the Minister also noted that all assessment tasks met the criteria after the successful Full Operational Capability (FOC) assessment of the F-CFC and committed to complete the bilateral evaluation of Conditions #1 and #2 capabilities and systems and to review the overall status of acquiring bilateral approved-upon levels of capabilities and systems, before discussing FOC certification. They also confirmed the progress of the joint assessment of the ROK's critical military capabilities and the Alliance's comprehensive response capabilities against DPRK nuclear and missile threats and assessed that significant progress had been made in meeting the conditions for the transition. The Minister reiterated that the ROK military is to continue to acquire defense capabilities necessary to lead the future combined defense and to pursue efforts to meet the conditions in a systematic as well as stable manner. The Minister and Secretary concurred that further management of Bridging and Enduring Capabilities is to be accomplished within the OPLAN planning process. The Secretary and the Minister also committed to cooperate closely to ensure the development of comprehensive and interoperable Alliance capabilities. The two sides pledged to engage in regular evaluation and review of the progress in wartime OPCON transition implementation through annual SCM and MCM to maintain a steadfast combined defense system.

11.    The Secretary and the Minister decided to continue strengthening cooperation in various areas, including space and cyber, in order to ensure an effective joint response against newly emerging threats and to bolster comprehensive Alliance response capabilities. The Secretary and the Minister acknowledged the efforts of the respective defense authorities working to promote the security of critical infrastructure, including information and space systems. The two leaders applauded the work of the Space Cooperation Working Group and pledged to explore measures to strengthen space cooperation given the signing of the U.S.-ROK Space Policy Joint Study. The two sides pledged to explore further cooperative measures to strengthen space capabilities as an Alliance, such as space situational awareness information sharing systems, and to expand bilateral and multilateral exercises and training events including the Space Cooperation TTX. The Secretary and the Minister reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen Alliance cyber cooperation in light of the increasing scope of cyber security threats. They highlighted the work of the May 2022 Cyber Cooperation Working Group and committed to  enhance close communication and coordination in the cyber domain including increasing U.S.-ROK combined response cooperation, the establishment of a bilateral cyber exercises and training, and information security requirements.

12.    The Minister and the Secretary concurred on the need to strengthen the national defense capabilities of the Alliance, and to establish more efficient and effective collaboration in the development, acquisition, and employment of these capabilities. The two sides noted the importance of expanding and deepening cooperation in the areas of defense research and development, industrial cooperation, capability acquisition, and logistics and sustainment, with a focus on strengthening the national defense capabilities of the Alliance as well as interoperability. 

13.    The Secretary and the Minister pledged to continue exchange activities between U.S-ROK consultative bodies that address defense research and development, as well as industrial cooperation, capability acquisition, lifecycle logistics, and technology security, and concurred on the necessity to advance Alliance priorities in the areas of capability development, interoperability, acquisition, and sustainment.

14.    The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to evaluate and evolve bilateral consultative bodies to strengthen efficacy and timeliness of cooperation in areas of defense industries and research and development. The two leaders reaffirmed that U.S.-ROK science and technology cooperation has expanded in various domains such as space, quantum, sensor/electronic warfare, cyber defense, artificial intelligence, automation, and directed energy. They also pledged to seek cooperative measures in the area of 5G and next-generation mobile communications (6G). The two sides assessed that such cooperation is continuing to develop in a way that furthers ROK-U.S. mutual interests. Going forward, the two sides pledged to continue to devise and deepen cooperative efforts through the regular consultative bodies that support these domains, and to work together on continued reform of those consultative bodies to strengthen their alignment with Alliance policy and strategy. 

15.    The Secretary and the Minister shared a common understanding that the U.S.-ROK Alliance plays a critical role in the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. As such,  in consideration of the complex regional and global security situation, the Secretary and the Minister  pledged to continue promoting defense and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and the world, in order to better respond to regional and global security challenges. In this context, the two leaders committed to seeking cooperation between the ROK's Indo-Pacific strategy framework and the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the sea, lawful unimpeded commerce, and respect for international law including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful use of the seas, including the South China Sea and beyond. They further expressed their intent to work together for that purpose. The Secretary and the Minister also acknowledged the importance of  preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, as reflected in the May 2022 Joint Statement between President Biden and President Yoon. They reaffirmed support for Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture.   

The two leaders concurred on the need to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law both at home and abroad, and also reiterated their commitment to ongoing efforts to bring peace,  stability, and prosperity to the region including counter-piracy operations, stabilization and reconstruction efforts, regional security cooperation initiatives, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

16.    The two leaders also committed to seek synergies in U.S. and ROK regional strategies to maintain the peace and security of the Northeast Asian region through trilateral and multilateral cooperation. They committed to continue U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral security cooperation such as information sharing, high-level policy consultation, trilateral exercises, and personnel exchanges. In particular, the two leaders committed to continue missile warning and anti-submarine warfare exercises, which help strengthen the response posture of the three countries to the DPRK nuclear and missile threat. The Secretary and the Minister also reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to promote and expand trilateral security cooperation through regular defense consultations, such as the defense trilateral talks (DTT).

17.    Amidst the DPRK's continued development of nuclear and missile programs, the Secretary and the Minister recognized the necessity of continued sanctions monitoring missions in the region and welcomed continued multinational contributions to counter-proliferation activities in the region. The Secretary expressed appreciation for the ROK's contribution to various global security efforts, including the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and both leaders concurred on the importance of upholding and fully implementing all relevant UNSCRs. They reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing cooperation to address existing DPRK sanctions evasion tactics and illicit cyber activities, and committed to seek additional opportunities for responding to WMD threats from the DPRK. Additionally, the two leaders resolved to continue strengthening cooperation to enhance CWMD capabilities through measures including U.S.-ROK Counter WMD Committee (CWMDC) and U.S. DOD Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs, which have enhanced Alliance CWMD capabilities. The Secretary and the Minister applauded the work done over the last year in the CWMDC to enhance the Alliance's combined response capabilities to prevent the acquisition and use of DPRK's WMD, and to respond to mitigate WMD threats.

Secretary Austin expressed his gratitude that the ROK is contributing towards ensuring a stable stationing environment for U.S. Forces Korea. The Secretary and Minister also assessed that the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) has greatly contributed to the strengthening of the U.S.-ROK combined defense posture.

18.    Secretary Austin and Minister Lee expressed appreciation for the courtesy, hospitality, and work by both sides that contributed to the success of this year's SCM. Both leaders affirmed that the discussions during the 54th SCM and the 47th MCM contributed to substantively strengthening the U.S.-ROK Alliance and further developing the bilateral defense relationship into the U.S.-ROK global comprehensive strategic Alliance. Both sides expect to hold the 55th SCM and 48th MCM in Seoul at a mutually convenient time in 2023.

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