BRUSSELS, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The Republic of South Korea is a vital partner to the NATO military alliance, NATO's deputy secretary-general said from Brussels.
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow met with top-ranking leaders from South Korea this week. A former U.S. envoy to South Korea, Vershbow praised Seoul's contribution to the military alliance, including its participation in the multilateral conflict in Afghanistan.
"South Korea is an important partner across the globe for NATO," he said in a statement. "We hope to continue and bolster our cooperation in the future."
His comments come as U.S. defense officials stress the importance of security in the Asia-Pacific region now that the Iraq war is over and the Afghan conflict is winding down.
U.S. and South Korean military exercises are expected to get under way later this month. Such drills have been a source of contention for the new leadership in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong Un, who took control over North Korea following the December death of his father, Kim Jong Il, visited military units in his country ahead of the bilateral drills, reports the South's Yonhap news agency.
The North Korean leader was declared the supreme commander of the North Korean military recently.