South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reportedly told U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both of their nations should be ready for ‘Hamas-style’ attacks from North Korea in the region. 

The warning came when Yoon invited Austin and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. to the presidential residence in Seoul for a meeting over dinner, Yonhap News Agency reported. The outlet, citing presidential spokesperson Lee Do-woon, said Yoon called for ‘a vigilant South Korea-US combined defense posture capable of promptly and decisively retaliating against any provocations from North Korea, including surprise attacks resembling Hamas-style tactics due to its miscalculation.’ 

Yoon said the Israel-Hamas war and the Ukraine-Russia war are directly and indirectly linked to North Korea. Austin reassured Yoon that President Biden is committed to further strengthening the U.S.-South Korea military alliance, according to Yonhap News Agency, as both allies on Monday are slated to discuss a range of security issues, including ways to bolster Washington’s extended deterrence commitment against North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats. 

The U.S. Department of Defense said Austin attended a ceremony honoring veterans from both countries at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul after holding talks with South Korean Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik, and Japanese Defense Minister Kihara Minoru at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense headquarters earlier Sunday.

‘Around the world, as you see our troops deployed and working together, it is impressive,’ he said at the ceremony. ‘The United States military is the most powerful military in the world, and we absolutely take pride in our relationship with our Korean counterparts.’

Following Sunday’s talks, U.S. defense officials announced that Austin and his South Korean and Japanese counterparts have decided on a mechanism to facilitate the exchange of real-time missile warning data to improve each country’s ability to monitor missiles launched by North Korea. That mechanism is slated to be fully operationalized by the end of December.

The defense ministers also encouraged the development of a multi-year trilateral exercise plan which is scheduled to be finalized by the end of this year. Austin ‘also reaffirmed during the talks the United States’ steadfast alliance with both countries and the U.S. commitment to extended deterrence backed by the full range of its capabilities,’ according to the Department of Defense. 

In addition to meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Seoul, Austin will also attend the 55th annual Security Consultative Meeting and the United Nations Command inaugural meeting of member states’ defense ministers before departing for his final stop in Indonesia.

On Thursday, in talks with South Korea’s leadership, including Yoon, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the growing threat posed by North Korea and its alleged provision of military equipment and munitions to Russia to help it wage war on Ukraine, the State Department said. 

They also spoke of the importance of U.S.-South Korean cooperation on global challenges, including China’s assertiveness and the instability in the Middle East.

‘They shared concerns about the DPRK’s provocations in the region and strongly condemned the provision of military equipment and munitions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the Russian Federation for use in its war against Ukraine,’ the State Department said of Blinken’s meeting with Yoon, referring to North Korea by its formal name. The Blinken-Yoon meeting also covered improving relations between South Korea and Japan as well as the importance of three-way cooperation between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul, the State Department said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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