SEOUL - South Korea and the United States signed a strategic pact Wednesday to prevent a North Korean nuclear attack and agreed to review a planned switch of US wartime command over South Korean troops.
The pact establishes a “strategic framework” for dealing with “key North Korean nuclear threat scenarios” that have escalated since the North’s third nuclear test in February.
It was signed by visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who reiterated US commitment to using all its military capabilities – conventional and nuclear – to provide South Korea with an “extended deterrence that is credible, capable and enduring”.
Although neither side provided any specific details of the measures envisaged by the new strategy, South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said it would “greatly enhance the efficacy” of the alliance’s existing deterrence capacity.
Observers said the plan, which is certain to be condemned by North Korea, was largely a confidence-building measure to signal the depth of Washington’s support for South Korea against any provocation from Pyongyang.
South Korea is protected by the US nuclear umbrella and there are currently nearly 30,000 US troops stationed in the country.
But Seoul insists that the alliance must respond to what Kim described as the “vastly different” security situation on the Korean peninsula following the North’s nuclear test.
To that end, it has requested an extension of US wartime command over South Korean troops – scheduled to end in 2015.