HONOLULU, Jul. 9 (Yonhap) – President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to bolster South Korea's combined defense readiness with the United States to deter North Korea's growing threats during his visit to the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii on Tuesday.

Yoon made the remark during his meeting with Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of Indo-Pacific Command, and Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and other U.S. military leaders.

"North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile capabilities and continued provocations are threatening security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. A steadfast combined defense readiness is more critical than ever," Yoon said, emphasizing the command's role in regional security.

Yoon underscored the importance of cooperation among allies and partners to address the growing security threats posed by North Korea after its signing of a mutual defense treaty with Russia last month.

"Strong power and solidarity among countries that share values are essential to protecting our liberal democracy and economic prosperity from these reckless forces," Yoon said.

The U.S. military's largest combatant command oversees U.S. Forces Korea, which maintains about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.

It marks the first such visit to the command by a South Korean president in 29 years and the first since it was renamed to the Indo-Pacific Command in 2018.

During the visit, Yoon met about 200 military personnel at the command and thanked them for their service.

"I visited the Indo-Pacific Command to further strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance and the combined defense posture under the grave security situation on the Korean Peninsula," he told the soldiers in a speech.

Currently, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a U.S.-led joint maritime exercise, is under way around the Hawaiian Islands. The drills, involving South Korea and 28 other countries, began June 26 and will continue until Aug. 29.

South Korea has sent some 840 personnel and naval assets for the drills, including the 7,600-ton ROKS Yulgok Yi I Aegis-equipped destroyer and the 1,800-ton ROKS Lee Beom-seok submarine.

Later in the day, Yoon will head to Washington to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Photo from the Korea Herald