SEOUL, South Korea, July 26 (UPI) — The top military officers of South Korea and New Zealand agreed Wednesday to bolster bilateral cooperation against North Korea‘s unrelenting saber-rattling.
Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed Army Lt. Gen. Tim Keating, chief of the New Zealand Defense Force, on the security conditions on the peninsula during their meeting in Seoul, Lee’s office said.
Lee requested New Zealand’s support for South Korea’s policy on North Korea and its handling of the communist neighbor’s nuclear and missile development.
They pointed out, “Chances are high that North Korea will conduct the launch of an additional ballistic missile with ICBM range,” according to the JCS.
The North test-fired what is believed to be an ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile, in early July.
Lee and Keating “agreed to cope actively with [the North’s move] through close coordination and cooperation between the two countries,” added the JCS.
Lee stressed that New Zealand is a friend of South Korea, having dispatched a total of 3,794 troops to help it fight against the invading North in the 1950-53 Korean War,
An artillery unit of New Zealand played a significant role in winning the historic battle of Gapyeong, which was staged in the town about 37 miles east of Seoul in April 1951.
Allied forces fought against Chinese troops to defend the town on April 24, 1951.
The 16th Field Regiment of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery played a significant role in the battle and was awarded the Republic of Korea’s Presidential Citation.
Lee expressed his gratitude to New Zealand for its contributions to the defense of freedom and peace.
Keating’s visit to Seoul is aimed at further strengthening defense ties between the two nations under the fast-changing security circumstances on the peninsula, the JCS said.
He paid a courtesy call on Defense Minister Song Young-moo, during which the minister took note of the timing of his trip. South Korea will commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement on Thursday.
Keating is scheduled to attend a government-organized ceremony to be held at Olympic Park in eastern Seoul.