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U.S. and South Korean marines train together at Pilsung Range in Gangwan Province, South Korea, Sept. 15, 2022.

U.S. and South Korean marines train together at Pilsung Range in Gangwan Province, South Korea, Sept. 15, 2022. (Jacob Johnson/U.S. Marine Corps)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Seoul “should be fully prepared” for North Korean provocations in the event of a crisis between China and Taiwan, South Korea’s chief diplomat said this week.

Foreign Minister Park Jin, speaking to lawmakers Monday at a briefing for the Foreign and Unification Committee, said North Korea may engage in provocative behavior and exacerbate a potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

“Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is very important for the peace and stability of our Korean Peninsula,” Park said. “Therefore, we would like to continue to work together with the U.S. while firmly maintaining the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance.”

So far this year, North Korea has carried out 40-plus missile tests, aerial sorties, artillery fire and prepped for a nuclear test — behavior officials in the South describe as provocative.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a missile launch in this image released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 10, 2022.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a missile launch in this image released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 10, 2022. (KCNA)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, during a live-streamed speech Tuesday at the National Assembly hall in Seoul, reiterated that the North has completed preparations for its seventh nuclear test, its first since 2017.

Yoon told CNN in September that North Korea could increase its provocations if China attacked Taiwan. The “top priority” in that scenario, he said, would be the “robust” alliance between Washington and Seoul.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Saturday, said Beijing is “resolutely opposing and deterring separatists" who seek Taiwan's independence.

“We should take resolute steps to oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ and promote reunification, maintain the initiative and the ability to steer in cross-Strait relations and unswervingly advance the cause of national reunification,” Xi said, according to a transcript from China’s Foreign Ministry.

The commander of U.S. Forces Korea and U.N. Command, Army Gen. Paul LaCamera, said in September that the U.S. military should examine the “second- and third-order effects” of a China-Taiwan conflict on U.S. troops in South Korea. USFK has about 28,500 troops on the peninsula.

LaCamera, speaking during a panel discussion hosted by the U.S.-based Institute for Corean-American Studies, declined to speak more specifically.

“What starts local becomes regional and global pretty quickly,” he said, adding that “there could be impacts here, and I think we have to be prepared for them.”

Three days after LaCamera’s remarks, South Korean Vice Minister of National Defense Shin Beom Chul said Seoul and Washington have not discussed deploying U.S. troops from South Korea to Taiwan, according to an MBC Radio interview.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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