Minister Austin was in Seoul for talks, as Washington sought to reassure South Korea of its commitment to growing threats from North Korea.
According to Reuters news agency, Mr. Austin met with South Korea’s defense minister and is expected to meet President Yoon Suk Yeol before flying to the Philippines.
North Korea test-fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the US mainland.
Officials from both the United States and South Korea have warned Pyongyang may be preparing for its first nuclear device test since 2017.
In a joint statement on January 31, the defense ministers said they had agreed to increase information sharing and joint planning.
The two also pledged to expand the “level and scale” of their joint military exercises this year, while also deploying more US strategic assets, such as aircraft carriers and bombers. bomb.
US reaffirms commitment to South Korea
More than 28,500 US troops are still stationed in South Korea after the Korean War (1950-1953). This war ended with an armistice, instead of a peace treaty.
In the past, Pyongyang has repeatedly criticized joint drills as evidence of allies’ hostility, and has staged shows of its own military force.
Mr. Austin said his trip was aimed at increasing cooperation to address common security challenges. The US defense secretary also reaffirmed the US commitment to South Korea as “hard as steel” at a time of heightened tensions and provocations.
“Our adversaries know that if they challenge one of us, they are challenging the US-South Korea alliance,” he told Yonhap News Agency.
Meanwhile, Minister Lee said that the two countries will hold nuclear drills in February under the scenario of North Korea’s nuclear attack. This is part of an effort to improve joint nuclear planning and deployment between the two countries.