Both Austin and Lee told reporters after the meeting they were concerned about Pyongyang’s recent missile launches.
Austin said the tests are “destabilizing to the region,” and called on Pyongyang to “cease that type of activity and to begin to engage in serious dialogue.” However, he noted that the Pentagon does not currently have any plans to change its posture in the region.
The meeting comes as Pyongyang continues to provoke outrage from its Pacific neighbors with a multi-day barrage of missile launches. The new round of tests, which occurred Thursday morning local time, appeared to include a failed intercontinental ballistic missile. The government of Japan initially warned that the missile would fly over Japan, but Tokyo’s defense ministry later said that had not occurred. The missile traveled about 466 miles before falling into the sea of Japan, far shorter than a March launch of the same missile that traveled over 1,000 miles.
The Thursday tests came a day after North Korea fired a daily record of 23 missiles on Wednesday, drawing quick condemnation from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
Within hours of the latest test, the U.S. and South Korea announced they would extend an air force exercise that had been scheduled to run Monday to Friday this week. South Korea’s air force said the exercise was being extended “with respect to the North’s recent provocations.”
The long-planned drills have angered Pyongyang, which has called them a provocation.
The Vigilant Storm exercise involves around 240 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Army, along with South Korean fighters. The militaries plan to launch 1,600 sorties, which is the largest ever for the annual event.
Biden administration officials have offered to meet their North Korean counterparts without preconditions, including potential meetings in Pyongyang. North Korea has yet to respond positively to the offer, and instead has increased the rate of weapons tests. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo expect Pyongyang to conduct its seventh nuclear test in the near future.