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US, South Korean Defense Chiefs to Meet Friday


Amid intense diplomacy in Asia over North Korea's nuclear test, the senior U.S. and South Korean defense officials will hold annual security talks in Washington on Friday.

A senior U.S. defense official says that, while North Korea's new nuclear and missile capabilities will be a major topic of discussion, they do not require any change to U.S.-South Korean operations or planning.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says there will be no change in the annual restatement of the U.S. commitment to use its nuclear arsenal to defend South Korea, if necessary. He says the joint communiqué to be issued on Friday will contain essentially the same statements in that regard that have been issued for nearly the last 30 years.

In addition, the official says, the unique level of integration of U.S. and South Korean forces on the peninsula makes it unnecessary for any special preparations to be made in response to North Korea's missile and nuclear tests in recent months.

The official says other topics for discussion on Friday will include plans to move more U.S. forces out of Seoul to bases farther south, and to hand over operational control of South Korean forces to their own commanders.

The top U.S. and South Korean defense officials will hold more than five hours of talks on Friday, with both senior civilian leaders and military officers taking part.

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