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Defense minister confirms North conducted rocket engine test

South Korean, Australian ministers urge North Korea to stop raising military tension

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo confirmed Tuesday that the “very important test” North Korea claimed to have conducted at its satellite launch site over the weekend was a rocket engine test, and urged the communist regime to stop raising military tension.

Jeong made the remarks during a joint meeting with his Australian counterpart, Linda Reynolds, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her counterpart, Marise Payne. 

(South Korea's Defense Ministry)
(South Korea's Defense Ministry)

North Korea said it performed a “very important test” at its Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, or Tongchang-ri site, raising speculations that it involved a new engine for a long-range missile. It was seen as a move to increase pressure on the US to make concessions in their denuclearization negotiations, for which the North has set a year-end deadline.

In their fourth “2+2” meeting held in Sydney, the four ministers of the two sides issued a joint statement on the relationship of the two countries, including their cooperation in the region, cybersecurity, trade and technological development.

They also signed separate memorandums for diplomatic and defense cooperation.

Raising their voices against the communist regime’s military actions, the ministers vowed concerted efforts for regional security and reiterated their commitment to full implementation of the UN sanctions on the North.

(South Korea's Defense Ministry)
(South Korea's Defense Ministry)

“The ministers expressed deep regret over North Korea’s continued firing of ballistic missiles and rocket engine test activities in Tongchang-ri, in the western side of North Korea,” Seoul’s Defense Ministry’s release said.

“(They also) urged North Korea to match the efforts to solve the problem with that of the US, South Korea and the international society via dialogue, and to immediately halt activities raising military tension.”

Following their joint meeting, the foreign and defense ministers held separate bilateral talks with their respective counterparts.

Kang and Payne discussed the bilateral relationship and ways to cooperate on regional and global challenges. They also spoke about the trade and economic relationship between the two countries based on their free trade agreement.

Additionally, the two foreign ministers signed a memorandum on development assistance cooperation and linking South Korea’s New Southern Policy with the Indo-Pacific Strategy that Australia promotes.

Jeong and Reynolds shared their opinions on defense collaboration for peacekeeping and on enhancing cooperation on defense technology, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

Jeong also praised Australia’s contributions in keeping peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and highlighted the efforts of Stuart Mayer, the Australian deputy commander of the United Nations Command in South Korea.

The defense ministers also signed a new memorandum to strengthen cooperation on the recovery of Korean War remains. All four ministers visited the Korean War Memorial in Moore Park in Sydney for a wreath-laying ceremony earlier in the day.

During the 1950-53 Korean War, about 17,164 Australian soldiers served as part of the United Nations Command Forces. Apart from the United States, Australia sent the largest number of troops.

“We still remember the sacrifice and dedication of the Australian war veterans who fought for the freedom and peace of South Korea,” Jeong said in his opening statement ahead of the four ministers’ talks.

According to the Defense Ministry, 339 Australian soldiers were killed in the war and 42 Australian soldiers remain unaccounted for.

The two sides agreed to hold the next 2+2 meeting in South Korea in 2021.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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