U.S. committed to ‘firm and unwavering’ defense of S. Korea: Gates

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated Thursday ''firm and unwavering'' commitment by the United States to the defense of South Korea.

Gates's remarks were in a joint communique issued at the end of an annual Security Consultative Meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae Young.

In case of crisis, the United States is to deploy ''globally available U.S. forces and capabilities'' in addition to U.S. forces based in South Korea, the communique said.

Gates also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence for South Korea, using the U.S. nuclear umbrella, conventional strike forces and missile defense capabilities, according to the communique.

Gates and Kim reaffirmed that North Korea's missile and nuclear tests, made in April and May this year, and recent short-range ballistic missile launches violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and other agreements.

As for the U.S. transfer of wartime operational command to South Korea scheduled for April 2012, Gates and Kim ''reaffirmed their intent for the transition to occur'' as scheduled, the communique said.

At a joint press conference, Gates said, ''I have a complete confidence that we will meet the deadline.''

Concerns have surfaced over the South's taking over the operational command in times of war due to rising threats from North Korea.

Gates arrived in South Korea from Japan on Wednesday for a two-day visit.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Oct. 22, 2009)