The defense ministers of South Korea and the United States pledged to fight against any attack in a phone call Wednesday as the two allies kicked off an annual joint military exercise amid rising tensions following the North's recent missile test and the assassination of its leader's half brother.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis shared an evaluation of the two countries' defense abilities and discussed the planned deployment of an advanced missile defense system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in South Korea, the Ministry of Defense said.
The phone conversation came as the allies launched Foal Eagle, a field training exercise involving ground, air and naval forces, which will run through the end of next month. Separately the allies plan to conduct Key Resolve, a computer-simulated command post exercise, starting March 13.
During the talk, Mattis vowed to counter any attack on the U.S. or its allies and said any use of nuclear weapons will face an effective and overwhelming response, according to the ministry.
Minister Han said the upcoming Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises largely contributed to peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The two defense chiefs vowed to monitor the North's possible provocations and strengthen military cooperation to better counter contingencies.
On Feb. 12, Pyongyang test-fired a newly developed intermediate-range ballistic missile in its first provocation since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)