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NEWS | Oct. 24, 2014

Security Decisions Should Continue to Deter North Korea, Official Says

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 eat.

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 capability.”

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 act.”

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.

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