South Korea steps up military engagements with NATO, US

Visit of Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO to the Republic of Korea. Wreath laying ceremony at Seoul National Cemetery.

The South Korean military and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held their first staff talks in Seoul, the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced on 14 February.

According to the JCS, directorate of strategic planning senior official Major General Kim Su-kwang and his counterpart, Italian Army Lieutenant General Francesco Diella and director of NATO’s cooperative security division, led the two-day session which commenced on 13 February.

The military staff discussion stems from promises made during high-level meetings such as the NATO Brussels Summit in June 2021 to increase dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and existing partners in the Indo-Pacific region and subsequent bilateral engagements in 2022.

The JCS noted that the latest meeting had been “meaningful”, with the two sides having discussed cooperation procedures, strategic security concepts as well as progress in bilateral cooperation. A JCS spokesperson added that the next meeting is expected to be held in Belgium in 2024.

South Korea has strengthened its engagement with NATO in recent years, with the opening of its diplomatic mission to NATO in Brussels in November 2022 seen as a significant milestone in its growing ties with the transatlantic alliance.

Meanwhile the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) and the US Army pledged to boost their military alliance and deepen technology cooperation, South Korean military news agency National Defense Daily reported in late January.

According to the report, US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville and his and his South Korean counterpart, General Park Jeong-hwan, met in Washington, DC, to sign the Korea-U.S. Strategic Vision Statement that is aimed at fostering a “global comprehensive strategic alliance”.

The South Korean and US military have also recently conducted several large-scale military exercises, including Vigilant Storm – comprising around 240 aircraft from both countries – in November 2022. The joint exercises were conducted as North Korea fired a record number of approximately 75 missiles in 36 separate days of testing in 2022.

by Jr Ng