(LEAD) Defense chief, NATO’s top commander agree to expand defense cooperation

South Korea’s defense chief on Thursday agreed with the top commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to deepen military cooperation with the U.S.-led alliance, the defense ministry said.

Defense Minister Shin Won-sik held talks with Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in Seoul to discuss security situation on the Korean Peninsula and ways to bolster ties with NATO.

During the talks, the two sides evaluated the evolving collaboration in military exercises, cybersecurity, and chemical, biological and radioactive capabilities, and agreed to further step up defense ties under the Individually Tailored Partnership Program, the ministry said in a release.

Signed in July 2023, the bilateral partnership outlines cooperation in 11 areas ranging from antiterrorism and nonproliferation to emerging technologies and cyber defense.

Cavoli underscored the importance of the defense cooperation between South Korea and NATO, and agreed to bolste
r cooperation between the two sides’ military leadership, according to the ministry.

Shin stressed the importance of international coordination on issues on the Korean Peninsula, and asked for NATO’s attention and support to deter provocations by North Korea, it said.

Cavoli also met with National Security Adviser Chang Ho-jin the same day at the presidential office in central Seoul and held talks on various security issues, according to the office.

The two sides shared concerns that the military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow is a “serious” violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and agreed to review measures for cooperation over the issue, such as exchanging intelligence, it said.

It marks the top NATO commander’s first visit to South Korea, underscoring the nation’s increasing role in the global security dynamics.

His visit comes at a time when South Korea is in the spotlight for its capacity to produce artillery and air defense systems coveted by Ukraine as its forces run low on amm
unition and foreign aid hangs in balance amid the prolonged war with Russia.

Seoul and Washington officials have accused North Korea of supplying munitions and other supplies to Russia for its war in Ukraine, denouncing the arms transfer as violating the U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting weapons trade with Pyongyang.

Source: Yonhap News Agency