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Regional cooperation key to countering North Korea, US army chief says

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South Korea and Japan’s efforts to improve their once-strained relationship and boost military ties are key to countering North Korea, America’s top general said.

United States army chief of staff James McConville was in Seoul this week for talks with senior South Korean military leaders. He visited the Demilitarised Zone, which divides the two Koreas.

He spoke to AFP and other media Tuesday in the Panmunjom Truce Village, just days after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a landmark visit to Seoul for a summit with President Yoon Suk Yeol, who vowed a “new future” for the historically troubled alliance.

“Peace comes through strength and that strength comes from countries that share the same values, that share the same interest, that understand the importance of having peace and stability and security in the region so you get prosperity,” McConville said, when asked about trilateral military cooperation.

Tokyo and Seoul have recently sought to bury the historical hatchet over Japan’s brutal 1910 to 1945 colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula, as the two countries — both key security allies of the United States — face growing nuclear threats from Pyongyang.

North Korea has conducted a record-breaking string of launches in 2023, including test-firing the country’s first solid-fuel ballistic missile — a key technical breakthrough for leader Kim Jong Un’s military.

Seoul and Washington have ramped up defence cooperation in response, staging a series of major military exercises this year, including two drills with Tokyo — and pledging to do more.

McConville walked around Panmunjom — where then-US president Donald Trump met North Korea’s Kim in 2019 — as a North Korean guard peaked through a curtain on their side of the border, possibly taking photos of the top US general.

McConville told reporters including AFP that it was “time to have no conflicts in the region”.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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