The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) held the 23rd Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) on September 18, 2023 in Seoul.
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for East Asia, Cara Allison Marshall, led the U.S. delegation and Deputy Minister for National Defense Policy (DEPMIN), Dr. Taekeun Heo, led the ROK delegation. Key senior U.S. and ROK defense and foreign affairs officials also participated in the dialogue.
During the Security Policy Initiative session, both sides reaffirmed the shared U.S. and ROK goal of the complete denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). They pledged to continue strengthening combined defense posture and capabilities to defend the ROK as well as deter conflict on the Peninsula.
The two sides shared their assessments of continued DPRK provocations and its efforts to diversify its delivery systems and advance its nuclear systems. The leaders committed to respond to DPRK provocations that undermine regional peace and stability through close and coordinated bilateral responses that demonstrate the strength of the Alliance. Both sides also reaffirmed the importance of full implementation of all United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions by the international community, particularly in light of the DPRK’s failed space launch vehicle (SLV) launches in May and August.
Furthermore, the U.S. side reaffirmed its ironclad commitment to the defense of the ROK, leveraging the full range of U.S. military capabilities—including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities as well as advanced non-nuclear capabilities—and reiterated that any nuclear attack by the DPRK against the United States or its Allies will result in the end of the Kim regime.
To this effect, the two sides assessed that the Ulchi Freedom Shield 23 (UFS23) exercise significantly improved the Alliance’s crisis management and all-out war execution capabilities. The exercise was conducted in August of this year under a realistic operational environment that reflected the DPRK’s advancing nuclear and missile threats as well as the possibility of a rapid transition to wartime. They also assessed that UFS23, in conjunction with over 30 intensive Warrior Shield field training exercises, enhanced combined operation execution capabilities. Based on these outcomes, the two sides pledged to further strengthen combined exercises and training to stay responsive to the rapidly changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula.
In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and Armistice Agreement, the two sides agreed to co-host the ROK-UNC Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting in conjunction with the 55th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in November. The leaders acknowledged that the meeting would strengthen U.S and ROK solidarity with the UNC Member States who share core values of promoting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
On defense science and technology cooperation, both sides recognized the need to modernize the Alliance and expeditiously deliver game-changing technologies to the warfighter. To this end, the two sides pledged to continue strengthening cooperation based on shared strategic interests and enhance collaboration on joint research and development. The leaders underscored the importance of bolstering supply chain resiliency and strengthening the connection between U.S. and ROK defense industrial bases to enhance interoperability and interchangeability within the Alliance defense architecture.
Both sides acknowledged progress of the revision of the Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS) based on guidance from U.S. and ROK strategic documents to effectively deter and respond to advancing DPRK nuclear and missile threats. The leaders shared a common understanding that the document, in conjunction with the progress achieved through the newly established Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), will contribute to consultations and joint planning to this effect.
The leaders reviewed progress on the Program Analysis Working Group (PAWG), which aims to counter the DPRK’s evolving missile threat and pledged to continue close collaboration. Both sides also agreed to initiate a joint study through the Counter-Missile Working Group (CMWG) to further develop the Alliance’s comprehensive counter-missile strategy.
The two sides commended the outcomes of the May 2023 Cyber Cooperation Working Group (CCWG) meeting, which included discussions on plans to participate in a bilateral cyber exercise early next year. The leaders also acknowledged that the ROK-U.S. Space Cooperation table-top exercise (TTX) will highlight ways the two sides can work together to build a unified understanding of deterrence and threats in the space domain. The U.S. and ROK also pledged to continue close consultations on various space cooperation measures, through the Space Cooperation Working Group (SCWG).
During the Conditions-based Operational Control (OPCON) Transition Working Group (COTWG), both sides reviewed the progress in meeting the three conditions under the bilaterally approved Conditions-based OPCON Transition Plan (COTP) and reaffirmed a mutual commitment to strengthening the combined defense posture of the Alliance. In particular, the leaders noted the progress made in pursuing the transition of wartime OPCON this year, including the bilateral evaluation of COTP capabilities and systems, the transition of Combined Component Commands to standing component commands, and the assessment of the regional security environment. The two sides pledged to comprehensively review the results of the bilateral evaluation to pursue the F-CFC Full Operational Capability (FOC) certification and other subsequent tasks in a systematic and stable manner.
During the Executive Session, acting DASD Allison Marshall and DEPMIN Heo led discussions on the increasingly complex regional and global security environment. As such, the two leaders reaffirmed the importance of upholding the the rules-based international order and adhering to international law. They pledged to work closely together to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the South China Sea and beyond.
Both delegations noted efforts to expand cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations and Pacific Island countries through the Regional Cooperation Working Group (RCWG) as part of efforts to implement the ROK Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy.
The two sides also underscored the significance of the outcomes of the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David in August, which marked the beginning of a “new era of ROK-U.S.-Japan cooperation.” The U.S. and ROK discussed ways to evolve defense trilateral cooperation into a comprehensive and multi-layered partnership that contributes to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region. Along with Japan, the U.S. and ROK discussed ongoing trilateral efforts to operationalize a real-time missile warning data sharing mechanism against DPRK threats by the end of 2023 and to institutionalize a multi-year trilateral military exercise plan.
During the meeting, both pledged that the U.S. Strategic Command and United States Forces Korea will closely collaborate with the ROK Strategic Command, which will be newly established, so that it can secure its role and status as a strategic unit. Both sides also agreed that U.S. and ROK forces will enhance the combined defense architecture of the Alliance by jointly developing planning and execution of Conventional-Nuclear Integration (CNI) efforts through the NCG.
In conclusion, ROK and U.S. leaders assessed that the 23rd KIDD significantly contributed to reaffirming the strong cohesion of the Alliance, bolstering Alliance coordination, and strengthening the ROK-U.S. combined defense posture. Both delegations agreed that the KIDD has been a key mechanism in developing the Alliance into one of the most dynamic and premier alliances in the world over the last 70 years. Based on these outcomes, the two sides pledged to continue progress leading up to the 55th SCM and the ROK-UNC Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting, scheduled in November 2023.