South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the two sides will complete a joint plan this year for a combined defense against any North Korean provocation, Yonhap News Agency reported.
"We reaffirmed our determination that we will respond resolutely against any future provocation or infiltration by North Korea," Kim told reporters.
He said the counter-provocation plan "will display our strong willingness to strike back if North Korea carries out provocations and to stage (an) effective joint response not only in the case of an all-out war but of provocations."
Panetta was accompanied by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea.
Earlier, Panetta said the United States will ensure the U.S.-South Korean alliance maintains a strong deterrent posture, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella "so that North Korea never misjudges our will and capacity to respond decisively to aggression," a report on the Defense Department Web site said.
"Despite the provocations, we have and will continue to reach out diplomatically. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, we will speak softly but carry a big stick," he said.
Currently, the United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea.