The US and South Korea are preparing to update their plans for a potential war with North Korea to reflect what Washington says is an advance in Pyongyang’s military capabilities. But now that the US is so focused on China, the new war plans will also address countering the Chinese military in the region.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, in Seoul on Thursday. In a joint statement, the two military leaders noted “the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” marking the first time Taiwan was mentioned in a joint release from the defense chiefs of the US and South Korea.
In May, President Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in also mentioned Taiwan together for the first time. This reflects how the US has shifted its position towards Taiwan. Washington no longer views the island as an issue between US-China relations and now views it as an opportunity to counter Beijing.
“We see [South Korea] now as a net provider of security not just on the peninsula but across the region,” an unnamed Pentagon official told Voice of America. The official said the US and South Korea will be “looking at ways where we can coordinate our defense cooperation in the region, and specifically capacity building throughout the region.”
The US’s desire for South Korea to become more involved militarily in the region fits in with Seoul’s plans to develop new weapons. Earlier this year, the US lifted restrictions on South Korea’s ability to develop and possess long-range missiles.
Previously, South Korea could not develop missiles with a range greater than 800km (497 miles). Now, Seoul can develop any type of long-range ballistic missile, potentially putting China in range.