General: Exercises Vital to U.S., South Korea

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 — Exer­cis­es such as the Invin­ci­ble Spir­it series are help­ing the U.S.-South Kore­an alliance trans­form for the future while send­ing an unmis­tak­able mes­sage to North Korea that its provo­ca­tions won’t be tol­er­at­ed, the top U.S. gen­er­al in South Korea said yes­ter­day.

Army Gen. Wal­ter L. “Skip” Sharp, com­man­der of Unit­ed Nations Com­mand, Com­bined Forces Com­mand and U.S. Forces Korea, con­demned North Korea’s spate of desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties dur­ing a speech to the East Asia Insti­tute and Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty in Seoul. 

The most recent attack, on South Korea’s north­west islands, “crossed a sig­nif­i­cant thresh­old and rep­re­sents a wor­ry­ing trend toward more fre­quent and more vio­lent provo­ca­tions,” Sharp said. “Our task … is to find ways to change North Korea’s strate­gic cal­cu­lus and end the cycle of provocations.” 

The Unit­ed States and South Korea’s mes­sage to North Korea is clear, he said. “We will not tol­er­ate attacks against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion and all provo­ca­tions will be met with the utmost response that the com­bined [South Korea]-U.S. instru­ments of nation­al pow­er can bring to bear and that the laws of land war­fare permit.” 

Sharp said North Korea’s actions bol­stered the U.S.-South Kore­an alliance, which is observ­ing its 60th anniver­sary this year. “Alliance resolve has nev­er been stronger, and we will strength­en the alliance fur­ther still, both in terms of capa­bil­i­ty and com­mit­ment,” he said. 

The new Strate­gic Alliance 2015 plan lays out a frame­work for that effort. It includes improve­ments in the mil­i­tary exer­cise and train­ing pro­gram, trans­fer of wartime oper­a­tional con­trol to South Kore­an forces by 2015 and the con­sol­i­da­tion of U.S. forces to hubs around Pyeong­taek and Daegu. 

Sharp called a real­is­tic and adapt­able exer­cise and train­ing pro­gram crit­i­cal to the plan, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of recent events on the peninsula. 

“We will seek to fur­ther adapt our exer­cis­es to address lim­it­ed, as well as full-scale, North Kore­an attacks,” he said. “All our exer­cis­es are designed to improve our inter­op­er­abil­i­ty and demon­strate unwa­ver­ing alliance resolve to main­tain peace and sta­bil­i­ty in the region.” 

Sharp cit­ed the suc­cess of the recent Invin­ci­ble Spir­it naval and air readi­ness exer­cis­es, the most recent­ly that includ­ed the Car­ri­er Strike Group George Wash­ing­ton. Togeth­er with the bian­nu­al the­ater-lev­el exer­cis­es, Key Resolve and Ulchi Free­dom Guardian, and future bilat­er­al and mul­ti­lat­er­al exer­cis­es, these are improv­ing alliance capa­bil­i­ties and readi­ness to respond to the full range of provo­ca­tions and attacks, he said. 

He empha­sized, how­ev­er, that the U.S.-South Kore­an alliance isn’t focused sole­ly on North Korea. “The [South Korean]-U.S. alliance is a vital ele­ment in pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty, sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty on the penin­su­la and in the region,” he said. “Based on our shared val­ues, our coun­tries are primed to coop­er­ate and act on a glob­al basis to con­tribute to inter­na­tion­al security.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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