Decisions made at the security and military talks between the United
States and South Korea should continue to deter North Korea, Army Gen.
Curtis M. Scaparrotti said today.
Scaparrotti, the Combined Forces Command chief in Seoul, also told
Pentagon reporters that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is in control
of the rogue state.
Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Republic of Korea
treaty, and the mission remains the same as it was in 1953 -- to deter
aggression, and if deterrence fails, defend South Korea. “We deter North
Korean aggression by ensuring our forces are ready to fight tonight,”
Scaparrotti said. “Therefore, our focus is on readiness and sustaining
and strengthening the alliance.”
North tests alliance
The North has tested this alliance with acts and provocations, but the
United Nations remains committed. The security pact has made South Korea
one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. The nation is a stark
contrast to the North, where the population doesn’t have enough food to
Instead of investing in his people, the general said, Kim Jong Un pours
money into developing a nuclear arsenal and uses violence and threats
to advance his interests.
“In recent years, North Korea has focused on development of asymmetric
capabilities,” Scaparrotti said. “These capabilities include several
hundred ballistic missiles, one of the world’s largest chemical weapons
stockpiles, a biological weapons research program, and the world’s
largest special operations force, as well as an active cyber-warfare
North Korea continues work on nuclear weapons and continues testing
missile technology. “We are concerned that such events could start a
cycle of action and counteraction, leading to an unintended,
uncontrolled escalation,” the general warned. “This underscores the need
for the alliance to work together, to be vigilant and to be ready to
Meetings set conditions
Scaparrotti spoke following the Security Consultative Meeting and
Military Consultative Meeting held in Washington. Those meetings “have
set the conditions for the alliance to transform and improve in the
years to come,” he said.
The general said he is encouraged by the signing of the memorandum of
understanding on wartime operational control. U.S. and South Korean
officials decided to make shifting operational control to South Korea
conditions-based rather than based on a set timeline. Shift in OPCON had
been scheduled for next year.
“The bilateral decision to shift to a conditions-based OPCON transition
will ensure our combined defense posture remains strong and seamless
while the Republic of Korea develops or acquires the critical military
capabilities necessary to assume the lead in the combined defense of
South Korea,” Scaparrotti said.
The decision means a U.S. general will continue to command Combined
Forces Command in Seoul and the United States will retain its wartime
leadership role until the alliance agrees conditions are conducive for a
stable OPCON transition. “The United States and the Republic of Korea
agreed to temporarily maintain war-fighting capabilities in Seoul and
north of the Han River, which are critical to the defense of the
Republic of Korea,” the general said.
U.S. unit stays north
One result of this is the U.S. 210th Field Artillery Brigade will
remain in the northern area until South Korea fields a comparable
capability, Scaparrotti said.
Still, the vast majority of the U.S. force relocation agreements will continue as planned, he said.