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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2013

Press Engagement with Republic of Korea MND Press Corps

[START]

COL Hannah: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to formally introduce GEN Scaparrotti, our Commander of Combined Forces Command, United Nations Command, and US Forces Korea.

We are conducting an on-the-record briefing today. We have a total of 30 minutes, including an opening statement by the General and then we will open it up for questions.

Sir, I turn it over to you please.

GEN Scaparrotti: Thank you very much. As we were walking down there, she [COL Hannah] said, Sir, they are all very happy that you are doing this today.

I said I almost would rather be at the dentist office. Ha ha.

Ok, that’s a joke.

With all humor aside, I realize how important you are to democracy and free press is democracy. I make a commitment to do this on a regular basis with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to cover one thing first before I begin the statement. And that is, as you know, we recently lost two of our Soldiers to a tragic training accident.  We mourn their loss and deeply value their sacrifice as they served here in Korea, protecting the security of the Republic of Korea.  Our hearts ache for their loved ones and I send my deepest condolences to their families and their loved ones.

Thank you for allowing me to speak here today for the importance of our Alliance.

Over the last 60 years …together, we have maintained stability in Korea because of the tireless efforts of the many men and women of the Alliance.This dedication has allowed the Republic of Korea to go from a war torn nation to one that is a vibrant democracy, an economic leader, a vital security partner, and a contributor to security operations around the world.

We currently face difficult challenges including reduced military budgets.Rest assured, even with these challenges, the U.S. has not reduced our commitment to the Republic of Korea or the Alliance.

The U.S. remains steadfast.Recently we have deployed an additional aviation battalion to Korea, we are fielding the most modern weapons systems in our inventory to Korea, and the readiness of our forces in Korea are prioritized second only to those in Afghanistan.

Since taking command, I have travelled twice to Washington, D.C. to discuss our mission and challenges with senior leaders of the U.S. military and our government.

They share a common theme, our commitment is firm and unwavering to the continued defense of the Republic of Korea.

The strength of the Alliance has been underscored this year by the meeting between our Presidents, between our Defense Ministers, and also between our Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

However, such staunch support is essential because our Alliance must remain vigilant and ready.The threat that we face from the North is real and unpredictable.To get my personal feel for our readiness of our armed forces to meet this threat, I‘ve been visiting many of the Republic of Korea and U.S. military units around the country, and it is clear to me that our forces are strong, have great professional leaders, and a great combined team.

We will continue to improve our combat readiness, ensuring that we are able to deter aggression, and if deterrence fails, to successfully defend the Republic of Korea.

To do this, I have laid out the Command’s Priorities.  They are:

  • Sustain and Strengthen the Alliance
  • Maintain the Armistice.  We will be ready to “Fight Tonight”
  • Transform and Achieve our Strategic Alliance 2015 Objectives
  • Sustain Force and Family Readiness
  • Enhance the UNC/CFC/USFK Team

I look forward to working with you as we continue to be one Alliance for one cause in the defense of the Republic of Korea.

As we say here, Katchi Kapshida!  We go together.

I appreciate your attendance today and I will take your questions now.

COL Hannah: Who wants to take the first question? Go ahead please, if you can state your organization as well.

Reporter (translated): GEN Scaparrotti, thank you very much for this opportunity to ask you a question. I am Mr. Kim Ho Jun from Yonhap news. This morning, at the AROKA breakfast, during your lecture, you stated the establishment of a ROK-US counter-missile capability committee in order to prepare and respond to the North Korean missile threat. My question is what are the roles and characteristics that this committee has?

GEN Scaparrotti: Yes, we do; we have established a number of committees as a part of SA2015. There are five, I believe. Those committees each look at a particular aspect of our strategic alliance objectives and help myself, Admiral Choi, our Security of Defense, and the Minister of Defense to make the best decisions about how to reach these milestones as we move forward. The counter-missile defense committee is specifically how we best counter the developing North Korean missile threat that we face and how we as an Alliance, together we build our capabilities to provide protection to the people of Korea.

COL Hannah: Thanks Mr. Kim, next question please.

Reporter (translated): Good morning GEN Scaparrotti, I am reporter Kim from Hangyereoh news agency. GEN Scaparrotti, you’ve mentioned SA2015 and I understand you made mention of this important milestone, SA2015, during your congressional hearing before arriving to the Republic of Korea. I remember you saying that it is appropriate for the Republic of Korean military to re-acquire the operational control (OPCON) as schedule in 2015. However, I do understand that currently due to the request, official request, from the ROK side, there are ongoing talks to determine the appropriate timing for this OPCON transitioning. What are your thoughts on this? Do you still believe it is appropriate that OPCON transition occurs as scheduled in 2015? What are your thoughts?

GEN Scaparrotti: Well thank you very much for your question.  The reference you made to my testimony was given in preparation to come here. I have had 60 days as a Commander now to look at this much more closely.

In that testimony, you will note that I also said that the importance of OPCON transition was the conditions that must be met. As a military Commander, that would be my focus. 

So in my experience here now, I am still firm in my focus as the military Commander, and in the Republic of Korea leadership military, that we focus on those capabilities that we need to build, both for the future transition, but more importantly, that we are ready as we can be every day.

The Republic of Korea Minister of Defense and our [United States] Secretary of Defense have formed a working group. They have already determined their points of reference, they are beginning to meet, and they will consider the actual decision on OPCON transition.

To be more precise, that bi-lateral working group can make a recommendation to our senior leaders, both U.S. and the Republic of Korea, and they will make the decision.

I am confident that they will reach a decision that is in the best interests of both of our nations, and in the interim, we will continue to focus on our readiness and improvement of both U.S. and Republic of Korea capabilities.

COL Hannah: Next please.

Reporter (translated): GEN Scaparrotti, I understand your predecessor, GEN Thurman has recommended of the establishment of a combined division which will be in effect after the OPCON, and I understand that the USFK, not all the forces will be relocating to USAG-Humphreys, but the residual will still remain north of the Han River. So, in terms of these two issues, are these two issues still being discussed between ROK and U.S., or is this not being discussed at the moment? If they are being discussed, how much progress have you made so far?

GEN Scaparrotti: Well thank you, good question.

I was recently helping 2ID to greet our forces up there and take a briefing from them.

And, a combined division is in fact still under consideration, there has been no decision, but we discussed it as a part of that briefing. I think it is a strong possibility; I think it will be a strong additive to our Alliance. On initial look, and it is something that I will look into as well, and talk to the Republic of Korea leadership about.

That is a very preliminary view; I actually haven’t talked to Admiral Choi about this at this point. So, we have not had this conversation.

In terms of the residual, in what we call Area I, there may be a need, operationally, to leave some residual in those areas just for proper defense and response. Again, those are under consideration. There has been no decision in that area either. It is sensitive issue, but we will work our way through it and do what is best for Korea and what is best for the defense of Korea.

COL Hannah: Ok we have time for two more questions. I am going to go ahead with Ms. Song and ...(inaudible)

Reporter (translated): I am reporter Choi from Kuk Min Daily. Currently, the issue of collective, the issue of accepting the collective self-defense of the Japanese self-defense forces is being dealt with in the media a lot these days. What are your thoughts of the acceptance of collective self-defense by Japanese forces? And, at the same time, another question is, if war were to break out in the Korean peninsula, how much of this Japanese self-defense should be limited?

GEN Scaparrotti: First of all, I’ll answer the reference to the collective self-defense itself.  Our Alliance with Japan and our Alliance with the Republic of Korea are very important to us, and are also the basis of the strength and stability here in North East Asia region.

There are also symbols of our commitment to stability in this region and symbols of commitment to each of those countries, and they work together to compliment (inaudible) to bring about stability here.

It is difficult to talk about conflict because there are so many different conditions that could exist in a conflict. I will just say that the United States is committed to both alliances and we see them as complimentary. We would expect Japan, or the Republic of Korea, to cooperate within international law, just as we do, and I am sure you and Japan will.

Finally, through these Alliances, we have deterrence of conflict and a better opportunity to ensure that issues are worked out and bylaws of this country, and on that occasion, aggression does not occur.

COL Hannah: Our final question.

Reporter (translated): GEN Scaparrotti, this is reporter Jung from MBN News, I have a question in regards to the kill chain that the ROK forces are independently trying to establish at this point with the help of the U.S. side. I understand the that the ROK is establishing surveillance and reconnaissance as strike capabilities that is part of this overall kill chain domain. My understanding is that, although the kill chain may seem that the U.S. intelligence capability are included; on the other hand, I think the kill chain also includes the concept of preemptive defense and preemptive strike as well. So, in terms of the employment concept of the kill chain, would you be inclined to accept this concept of preemptive defense and so-called preemptive strike? And, my follow-on question Sir, is as the Commander of USFK and Combined Forces Command, how would you describe this employment concept of this so-what-would-be-called kill chain?

GEN Scaparrotti: First of all, as the Commander of CFC, I would ask you to go to the Republic of Korean forces and their military Commanders to comment specifically on the kill chain, since it is predominately your concept which works within the Alliance.

As you know, we have together determined the bi-lateral tailored deterrence strategy, announced in the Security Consultative Meeting several months ago.

This strategy identifies the enablers and capabilities that represent a tailored response to North Korea’s missile threat.

So, as an Alliance, we employ both Republic of Korea’s capabilities and plans integrated with what capabilities and plans we, as the United States bring, together into one plan.

I think, as a Commander, it is important not to place our plans on one option, mainly preemptive, but that we consider the range of options and the conditions necessary for each of those so that we have an agile and capable response given almost any condition that North Korea may present.

Finally, I would say that we take this threat very seriously from the United States prospective. I know the Republic of Korea’s leaders do; we have talked about it frequently, and we will work together for the best options available. Finally, I will just add to ensure the Republic of Korea that the United States full range of options, our extended deterrence and our conventional assets are available in support of this Alliance.

If I can close, would that be alright?

COL Hannah: Yes sir.

GEN Scaparrotti: I just want to assure you that it is a great privilege and a pleasure to be the Commander of CFC, and to live and work in Korea.

I have seen the work and generosity of your people and the strength of your people as well.

We are focused on readiness in the defense of the Republic of Korea.

And I am confident that this Alliance, which has 60 years of trust to rely upon, can remain strong and really keep it strong in the future. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

COL Hannah: Thank you sir. This concludes the press conference, again thank you for coming.

GEN Scaparrotti: I will see you soon.

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