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S. Korea, U.S. discuss forming committee to deter N. Korea's nuclear threats
SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States on Monday began talks on security issues including a plan to set up a joint committee to effectively deter threats from North Korea's nuclear programs and other weapons of mass destruction, officials said.

   Monday's meeting of the Security Policy Initiative (SPI) forum, the 27th of its kind, comes as tensions run high on the Korean Peninsula following the North's deadly bombardment of a South Korean island last month that killed four people.

   Deputy Defense Minister Chang Kwang-il and his U.S. counterpart, Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, were leading the SPI talks in Seoul.

   "The two sides plan to sign terms of reference to systemize the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee, which would be headed by Chang and Schiffer," said an official at the South's defense ministry.

   South Korea and the U.S. agreed to form the committee at their annual defense ministers' meeting in October.

   Extended deterrence means the U.S. can provide tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, conventional strike and missile defense capabilities to defend South Korea in case of an attack from North Korea. It is the first time for the U.S. to create such a committee with a non-NATO ally.

   During the SPI talks, the allies are expected to reaffirm their commitment to respond firmly should North Korea strike the South again, as it did on Nov. 23 when it shelled the southern border island of Yeonpyeong.

   The bombardment also injured 18 people and destroyed dozens of homes, marking the first attack by the North on a civilian area on the South's soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   South Korea and the U.S. have held SPI talks regularly since 2005 to discuss a wide range of military and defense issues. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help defend its ally against North Korea.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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