North Korea’s Nuclear Activ­i­ties Desta­bi­lize Region, U.S. Com­man­der Says

By Don­na Miles
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

North Korea’s asser­tions of its nuclear weapons capa­bil­i­ty and the like­li­hood that it’s pro­lif­er­at­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion rep­re­sent a huge secu­ri­ty risk for the region and the world, the top U.S. com­man­der in Korea told Pen­ta­gon reporters today.

“I wor­ry about it every day,” Army Gen. Wal­ter “Skip” Sharp, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Korea, said of con­cerns that North Korea is export­ing its weapons of mass destruc­tion and mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy to those who could use it against the Unit­ed States and oth­er coun­tries.

“So am I con­fi­dent it’s not hap­pen­ing? No,” Sharp con­tin­ued. “But I think it’s one of the con­cerns that we have with North Korea and will con­tin­ue to have in the future.”

Sharp declined to ver­i­fy news reports that North Korea con­duct­ed a short-range mis­sile test yes­ter­day, but said the Unit­ed States is keep­ing a close eye on these and relat­ed devel­op­ments.

“I can’t say any­thing spe­cif­ic, but I will say that we con­tin­ue to be con­cerned about the devel­op­ment, the pro­lif­er­a­tion and the test­ing of mis­sile sys­tems in North Korea,” he said. “They have a long his­to­ry of that, and it is a dan­ger for the region, and we’re con­cerned about it.”

Intel­li­gence sources are mon­i­tor­ing North Korea’s activ­i­ties “very close­ly,” Sharp said, and the Unit­ed States and oth­er coun­tries are work­ing togeth­er to dis­cour­age them. “We take nec­es­sary actions to try to min­i­mize [those activ­i­ties],” he said. “It’s all our oblig­a­tions to be able to watch that, report it and stop it.”

Mean­while, Sharp said it’s evi­dent that North Korea has reneged on its com­mit­ment made through the Six-Par­ty Talks. “They’re not fol­low­ing through,” he said. That, he said, is why Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for East Asian and Pacif­ic Affairs Christo­pher Hill recent­ly returned to North Korea to try to sal­vage the plan.

“We want to be sure that … what [North Kore­an leader Kim Jong Il] agreed to in the Six-Par­ty talks, he is actu­al­ly accom­plish­ing,” Sharp said. “And Sec­re­tary Hill is work­ing very hard on that as he works through those nego­ti­a­tions.”

Sharp expressed the hope that the State Department’s efforts to achieve sta­bil­i­ty in the region will suc­ceed. “I am hope­ful that their efforts will bear fruit and that North Korea will abide by its agree­ment that has been made through­out that process,” he said.

While watch­ing to ensure “there’s noth­ing out of the ordi­nary that’s hap­pen­ing up north,” U.S. Forces Korea and Repub­lic of Korea forces stand ready to defend South Korea in the event that deter­rence fails, Sharp said. “We’re real­ly focus­ing on our capa­bil­i­ty to be able to react,” he said.

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