Attacks ‘likely’ but Seoul, U.S. ready
“While the Kim regime has proven a willingness to escalate in order to obtain what it wants, I am convinced that the ROK-U.S. alliance is prepared,” Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, told a forum in Seoul, referring to South Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Republic of Korea.
“Our counter-provocation planning and combined exercises are stronger than ever. ... In the past year, we have worked hard to develop a hostile counter-provocation plan that more adequately addresses the full spectrum of conflict.”
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose to one of their highest levels last year since the 1950-53 Korean War after the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, reportedly by the North, and the North’s bombardment of the western border island of Yeonpyeong. Fifty South Koreans were killed in the two attacks.
In between the attacks, North Korea disclosed the existence of its uranium enrichment facility, which could give Pyongyang a second way to make a nuclear bomb.
North Korea has attacked South Korea in many ways since the end of the war, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Analysts believe the attacks were aimed at first getting attention from the outside world and then winning economic concessions from the South.
Sharp also accused North Korea of engaging in “coercive strategy.”
“North Korea’s unprovoked submarine attack against the Cheonan, the announcement of their highly enriched uranium program and brutal artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island over the past year were part of the North’s spiraling threat of coercive strategy,” Sharp said.
“Their desire to antagonize, provoke, appease and demand concessions has been taken in order to achieve the regime’s goals of gaining food, fuel, economic aid and succession to sustain their regime and become a ‘strong and prosperous nation’ by 2012,” he said.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Since last year’s provocations, South Korea has been pushing a series of military reforms designed to enhance interoperability among the Army, Navy and Air Force and drastically increase its firepower. Sharp called Seoul’s military reform measures an essential step to making the South’s armed forces stronger.
“It will absolutely enhance your war-fighting capability through a more efficient joint structure,” Sharp said. “This is essential not only for increased command and control capability, but also for fiscal prudence.”
Sharp is set to retire next month, and Gen. James Thurman, chief of the U.S. Army Forces Command, will become the new USFK commander.
“We continue to face a determined enemy to the north, and ... you have achieved an unprecedented degree of success,” Sharp said.
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
샤프 “한국에 전술핵 배치 불필요”
주한미군사령관 고별 강연
“국방개혁 반드시 필요”
월터 샤프(Walter L. Sharp) 주한미군사령관(한미연합사령관 겸임)은 20일 “한국에 전술핵을 배치할 필요가 없다”고 말했다. 육군협회가 주최한 고별 조찬 강연회에서다. 샤프 사령관은 “미국은 핵우산 등 확장억제를 이미 제공하고 있고, 전 세계에 배치한 (미군의) 자산을 통해 충분히 북한의 핵 능력이나 공격을 억제할 수 있다”며 이같이 밝혔다.
샤프 사령관은 한국의 국방개혁에 대해 “반드시 필요하다”며 “(국방개혁은) 전투 수행능력을 향상시키고 합동성을 강화할 것”이라고 말했다. 그러면서 “미국은 1986년 골드워터-니콜스 법의 제정을 통한 국방개혁을 통해 더 강해졌다”며 “한국의 국방개혁 추진은 시의적절하고 적극 지원하겠다”고 덧붙였다. 이는 해·공군 전직 참모총장단이 이날 일부 언론 광고를 통해 “(국방부가 추진하는 국방개혁은) 한·미 연합 작전체계에 혼란을 준다”고 한 것을 반박하는 내용이어서 주목을 끌었다.
다음 달 14일 이임식을 하고 본국으로 돌아가 전역할 예정인 샤프 사령관은 “전역 후에도 세미나와 기고문을 통해 한·미동맹 강화를 위한 일들을 할 것”이라고 말했다. 샤프 사령관은 2008년 6월 한국에 부임했다.