Thurman Wants to Bolster U.S.-South Korean Ties

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 — Army Gen. James D. Thur­man told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that he would work to strength­en the U.S.-South Korea alliance amid provo­ca­tions and uncer­tain­ties from North Korea.

Thur­man tes­ti­fied today as part of his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to become the top allied com­man­der in South Korea.

Thur­man cur­rent­ly leads U.S. Army Forces Com­mand. If con­firmed, he will suc­ceed Army Gen. Wal­ter Sharp as the com­man­der of Unit­ed Nations Com­mand, Com­bined Forces Com­mand and com­man­der of U.S. Forces, Korea.

Over the last year two notable provo­ca­tions have increased ten­sions between North and South Korea. The North sank the South Kore­an naval ves­sel Cheo­nan, killing 46 South Kore­an sailors in March 2010. In Novem­ber, a North Kore­an artillery bar­rage that tar­get­ed the island of Yeong­pyeong killed two civil­ians and two South Kore­an marines.

Offi­cials said the provo­ca­tions were like­ly caused by Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of North Kore­an dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-il, try­ing to cement his claim as the suc­ces­sor to his father.

North Korea’s econ­o­my is in sham­bles and the coun­try is a pari­ah in the world. Yet it remains dan­ger­ous. In pre­pared tes­ti­mo­ny, Thur­man not­ed that North Korea retains the fourth-largest mil­i­tary in the world, with more than 1 mil­lion active duty troops and 5 mil­lion reservists.

More than 70 per­cent of North Korea’s mil­i­tary forces are arrayed along the De-mil­i­ta­rized Zone. North Korea has sta­tioned up to 250 long-range artillery guns that could strike the South Kore­an cap­i­tal of Seoul — one of the world’s great met­ro­pol­i­tan cities with almost 25 mil­lion peo­ple.

Yet, North Korea’s mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty is declin­ing. North Kore­an tanks are no match for U.S. and South Kore­an weapons sys­tems, said Thur­man, not­ing that North Korea has more than 1,700 aging air­craft, 800 naval ves­sels and 13,000 artillery sys­tems.

Nonethe­less, though North Korea’s weapon­ry may suf­fer from neglect and its troops may be poor­ly trained, there are many of them, and sheer num­bers, too, can pro­vide a mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty, the gen­er­al said.

The North Kore­an nuclear pro­gram also pos­es a grave con­cern on the penin­su­la, Thur­man said. North Korea con­tin­ues to devel­op its nuclear capa­bil­i­ties, reveal­ing ear­li­er this year that it has an oper­a­tional ura­ni­um enrich­ment facil­i­ty. The North Kore­an regime has worked to pro­lif­er­ate nuclear and mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy to Iran, Syr­ia and oth­ers. Thur­man said that he will work to see if he can strength­en the pro­lif­er­a­tion secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tive on the penin­su­la.

Thur­man said there are both chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties on the Kore­an penin­su­la.

“Rec­og­niz­ing that a strong Unit­ed States-Repub­lic of Korea alliance is one of the most impor­tant fac­tors for main­tain­ing peace and secu­ri­ty on the penin­su­la and in the region at large, I will — if con­firmed — con­tin­ue the work of my pre­de­ces­sors direct­ed at sus­tain­ing strong ties with our Kore­an part­ner,” he said.

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

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →