Mullen: North Korea’s Unpredictability Endangers Region

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2010 — The only thing pre­dictable about the North Kore­an regime is its unpre­dictabil­i­ty, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a tele­vi­sion broad­cast today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told CNN today that North Kore­an dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-il is try­ing to assure the tran­si­tion of lead­er­ship to his son, Kim Jong-un. He implied that the sink­ing of the South Kore­an navy ship Cheo­nan in March and the artillery strikes on Yeong­pyeong Island on Nov. 23 are part of that process. Mullen called the North Kore­an leader bel­liger­ent and dan­ger­ous.

“He is con­sis­tent­ly desta­bi­liz­ing and is only pre­dictable in his unpre­dictabil­i­ty,” the admi­ral said. “He gal­va­nizes every­one around with the poten­tial that they could go to war with South Korea.”

North Korea is on a path to devel­op nuclear weapons, and the artillery strikes on Yeong­pyeong Island are lat­est sign of his con­tin­ued bel­liger­ence, he said. Kim Jong-il report­ed­ly cit­ed South Korea’s recent mil­i­tary exer­cis­es with the Unit­ed States as a rea­son for the artillery strike.

How­ev­er, the Hoguk series of exer­cis­es that began ear­li­er this month in South Korea and include 70,000 South Kore­an troops, have been long planned, Mullen said. Exer­cis­es built around the USS George Wash­ing­ton car­ri­er bat­tle group in the Yel­low Sea began today. Both sets of exer­cis­es are built around deter­rence, in response to the sink­ing of the Cheo­nan, which killed 46 South Kore­an sailors.

“It focus­es on secu­ri­ty in the Yel­low Sea par­tic­u­lar­ly in respect to sub­ma­rine war­fare,” he said. “It is meant to send a very strong sig­nal of deter­rence and also to work with close allies in South Korea.

“I don’t think this will be the last exer­cise,” he added. “This is a part of the world that we’ve exer­cised in for decades and we will con­tin­ue.”

South Korea and the Unit­ed States are focused on restraint and not let­ting the sit­u­a­tion get out of con­trol, the admi­ral said. “The South Kore­ans, so far, have respond­ed that way,” he said. “Nobody wants this thing to turn into a con­flict.”

Chi­na is also urg­ing restraint and Chi­nese lead­ers prob­a­bly are the only peo­ple who can exert influ­ence on North Korea, Mullen said.

“The Chi­nese cer­tain­ly were involved with the response at the Unit­ed Nations after the sink­ing of the Cheo­nan,” he said. “The North Kore­ans were tak­en aback by the strength of that response from Chi­na. We think it is impor­tant for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to lead, but in par­tic­u­lar, Chi­na.

“It’s a very dan­ger­ous area when [Kim] does this. It desta­bi­lizes the region, and Chi­na has as much to lose as any­body.”

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

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