“Our government will strengthen its capabilities to better implement U.S. enhanced deterrence and will dramatically improve the responsiveness of the Republic of Korea’s military to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup said at the Shangri- La Dialogs in Singapore.
Lee also said South Korea would work more closely with the United States and Japan as part of its response – echoing a promise made a day earlier by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
North Korea’s “repeated missile provocations” have advanced in “quality and quantity,” Lee said, adding that this and preparations for a nuclear test are a “serious challenge that threatens peace and stability.”
That threat was a key topic of discussion at the three-day security forum, which draws defense officials from across the region and played out this year in the shadow of the war in Ukraine and heightened concerns about Pyongyang’s weapons program.
The dialogue was also a forum for countries to strengthen plans to work together to deter the North Korean threat.
Meeting on the sidelines of the forum on Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and South Korea’s Lee spoke of “solidarity” as a key element of deterrence against North Korea, according to a senior US defense official.
The three countries plan to engage in ballistic missile data-sharing exercises and discuss additional trilateral exercises, the official said.
In a speech the same day, Austin pledged to deepen American security cooperation with Japan and South Korea in response to North Korean provocations.
“We remain open to future diplomacy – and fully prepared to deter and defeat future aggression,” he said.
Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe also commented on North Korea’s recent missile launches in response to a question after his own speech at the forum on Sunday.
Wei said China will continue to promote peace on the Korean peninsula, but stressed that security concerns from all parties should be taken into account.
“The DPRK’s Concerns [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are not addressed by the international community,” he said, adding that international sanctions have affected the quality of life in North Korea.
In his address, South Korea’s Minister Lee said that if North Korea made significant progress on denuclearization, South Korea would pursue a “bold plan” to help improve the country’s economy and the lives of its citizens, but this plan must “come from a position “come of strength.”
CNN’s Ally Barnard and Teele Rebane contributed to this report.
Read Also :