North Korea's missile and weapons developments are increasingly destabilizing for regional security, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said after talks with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, but the two sides also discussed issues beyond the Korean peninsula.
A changing security environment prompted the United States and South Korea to agree to update strategic guidance about how they plan for a potential conflict with North Korea, as well as review their combined military command, Suh said.
U.S. and South Korean officials cautioned that the updates to the contingency war plans are routine and not a preparation for war.
Currently, the United States would command allied troops in the event of war, but South Korea has been seeking to gain "operational control" (OPCON).
Suh said the two sides made progress on meeting conditions for OPCON transfer to South Korea and agreed to assess the future command's full operational capability next year.
Austin also suggested any U.S. response to Russia's actions towards Ukraine would be carried out in conjunction with the international community, as he called on Moscow to be transparent about its military buildup.
It is also the first time that the defense chiefs' joint statement reaffirmed "the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."