U.S., South Korea Prepare Defense Against North’s Provocations

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2011 — The South Kore­an and U.S. mil­i­taries are well pre­pared to defend South Korea should North Kore­an provo­ca­tions con­tin­ue, the top U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­der post­ed in the region told Con­gress today.
Tes­ti­fy­ing before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee here, Army Gen. Wal­ter “Skip” Sharp, com­man­der for Unit­ed Nations Com­mand, Com­bined Forces Com­mand and U.S. Forces Korea, said South Kore­an and U.S. mil­i­tary lead­ers have been work­ing to hone their defens­es and are ready to effec­tive­ly respond to an array of North Kore­an provo­ca­tions.

“We have been work­ing on a whole range of pos­si­ble provo­ca­tions from North Korea,” Sharp said. If North Korea should stage an act of provo­ca­tion or aggres­sion, he said, then South Korea “will imme­di­ate­ly strike back in a pro­por­tion­ate self-defense man­ner. I do believe we are pre­pared.”

Sharp cit­ed North Korea’s sink­ing of the South Kore­an navy frigate Cheo­nan in March 2010 that killed 48 sailors, and the Novem­ber artillery bar­rage on Yeon­pyeong Island from North Korea that killed two South Kore­an ser­vice mem­bers and wound­ed oth­ers, includ­ing some civil­ians.

These attacks, along with North Korea’s con­tin­u­ing devel­op­ment of nuclear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties have strength­ened the South Korean‑U.S. alliance, Sharp said. The alliance, he empha­sized, is ful­ly pre­pared to deter North Kore­an aggres­sion.

The South Korea‑U.S. alliance “con­tin­ues to deter a North Korea that threat­ens both region­al and glob­al peace and secu­ri­ty,” the gen­er­al said. “Main­tain­ing this pre­pared­ness is accom­plished through the devel­op­ment and the refine­ment of our bilat­er­al plans to deter and defeat provo­ca­tions — attacks like we saw last year — while main­tain­ing the abil­i­ty to respond to oth­er desta­bi­liz­ing con­di­tions.”

U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand com­man­der Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, who tes­ti­fied along with Sharp, added that North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile and nuclear efforts are help­ing the rogue nation become more than just a threat to its neigh­bor to the south.

“I do agree that North Korea is becom­ing a direct threat to the Unit­ed States,” Willard said, not­ing that North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams are work­ing toward an inter­con­ti­nen­tal capa­bil­i­ty.

“It becomes an inter­na­tion­al threat and, for sure, a poten­tial future threat to the Unit­ed States,” the admi­ral said.

Willard said the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impa­tient with North Korea’s unpre­dictable and hos­tile behav­ior. It’s impor­tant that the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na real­ize the inter­na­tion­al community’s impa­tience with North Korea, he said, not­ing that Chi­na is North Korea’s only ally by treaty in the region.

Key to end­ing North Korea’s weapons devel­op­ment and a poten­tial nuclear and bal­lis­tic arms race in the region is pro­duc­tive dia­logue with Chi­na, Willard explained. “I think it’s appro­pri­ate that [Chi­na] under­stands the Unit­ed States’ impa­tience and rec­og­nize that what is occur­ring on the Kore­an Penin­su­la is not sta­t­ic or sta­ble,” the admi­ral said. “Rather, we have seen an advanc­ing nuclear capa­bil­i­ty being devel­oped in the midst of what are very con­ven­tion­al provo­ca­tions.”

Region­al talks with Chi­na are focused on mak­ing it clear to lead­ers in Bei­jing that South Korea is fed up with North Korea’s bel­li­cose actions.

“The sit­u­a­tion on the Kore­an Penin­su­la has changed; both in South Korea and their unwill­ing­ness to tol­er­ate the con­tin­ued provo­ca­tions that have become dead­ly …, as well as the impa­tience of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty over the nucleariza­tion piece,” Willard said. “China’s under­stand­ing of the acute­ness of both of those things is an impor­tant fac­tor in gen­er­at­ing what influ­ence they can exhort over Pyongyang in order to change this.

“We have a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge on the Kore­an Penin­su­la – one that we can­not allow to fes­ter any longer,” he added.

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

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