The United States has agreed not to take any military action against North Korea without first getting South Korea's approval, President Moon Jae-in said Thursday as he marked 100 days in office.
Backing up the president's assertion, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Beijing that there was "no question" that South Korea would be consulted before any possible military action was taken on the Korean Peninsula.
"South Korea is an ally and everything we do in the region is in the context of our alliance," Dunford told reporters traveling with him on a trip that has taken him to Seoul and Beijing. Dunford plans to be in Tokyo on Friday.
The risk to South Korea has restrained successive American administrations striking North Korea to take out its nuclear and missile facilities, even as its capability has improved to the point where it now poses a threat to the U.S. mainland.
But a strike on North Korea would likely cause Pyongyang to unleash conventional artillery at Seoul, just over the border. Ten million people live in the South Korean capital but as many as 25 million people - half the population - live in the greater Seoul region and within North Korean artillery range.