U.S. commander assuages bankers’ security fears

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U.S. commander assuages bankers’ security fears

Representatives of foreign banks gathered at a small, unofficial function yesterday to hear Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of the Eighth United States Army, discuss the Cheonan incident and its impact on Korea’s sovereign risk.

At the Foreign Bank Group (FBG) monthly luncheon at the Lotte Hotel yesterday, Fil was asked by a banker whether North Korea could wage a war against South Korea independent of Chinese support. “Maybe for a week,” Fil replied.

“Anything more than a week,” he said, “[Kim Jong-il] absolutely needs Chinese help. It’s almost incomprehensible to think of what would cause them to do this [to wage war], but the Cheonan [incident] was almost incomprehensible until it happened.”

More than 20 bankers attended the lunch, and many said they were getting inquiries from their head offices about the security situation in Korea.

Of the Cheonan sinking, Fil said in a prepared statement: “We stand fully behind the results of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan. The international, independent investigation was objective, the evidence overwhelming, and the conclusions inescapable.”

In the ensuing Q. and A. session, Fil was asked how he thought Kim’s regime might crumble in the future.

Fil said that there are “six major scenarios, and then combinations of those scenarios.” The ROK-U.S. alliance, according to Fil, is “studying and preparing to exercise what might be the reaction to [those scenarios] ? not to take over North Korea, but to try to contain it and help them.”

He stressed that war is not an option. “No nation, [including the] ROK, the DPRK, the U.S., China, nobody wants war. All have agreed that, absent of provocation, we will do anything we can do to avoid it,” he said.

On fears of a possible refugee crisis should North Korea crumble, Fil agreed that “it is a concern.” To curtail a rush of refugees, he said, “the current thought process is first maintaining the border, then massive infusion of food, then economic aid,” he said.


By Lee Jung-yoon [joyce@joongang.co.kr]

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