A clear messageTop U.S. military officials vowed to provide the U.S. forces in South Korea with “all strategic capabilities,” including a missile defense system, to ensure all possible deterrence options against North Korea. On Tuesday, they reaffirmed a commitment to military readiness and regular joint military drills to contain North Korea in a rare synchronized visit and press conference by a group of U.S. commanders, including Adm. Harry Harris, chief of the Hawaii-based Pacific Command; Strategic Command chief Gen. John Hyten; and Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, at Osan Air base.
Hyten said his Strategic Command is committed to providing the U.S. Forces Korea with “all strategic capabilities.” Harris emphasized that “credible combat power” and options would be ready to support diplomatic efforts to solve the North Korean weapons issue.
Their rare gathering in Seoul and chorus of confident assurances on the security alliance with South Korea comes as North Korea has become as unpredictable and provocative than ever. After testing two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and threatening to fire four mid-range missiles around the U.S. territory of Guam, Pyongyang issued another warning of “catastrophic consequences” for Seoul and Washington going ahead with their annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drill in South Korea.
North Korea has uploaded a video on YouTube showing its simulation of an attack on Guam. Under such a volatile situation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could order a surprise attack at any time as he is reportedly to have discreetly visited the North Korean frontline unit in Yeoncheon just 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) away from South Korea’s position on the demilitarized zone.
CNN has dispatched a number of journalists to South Korea to cover the brewing crisis. Three U.S. military bigwigs have flown to Seoul and given a symbolic joint press conference at the Osan base, the U.S. Air Force base close to the North and home to the U.S. Patriot missile defense system. Their presence raised alarm about a real war operation. “We hope and we work for a diplomatic solution to the challenge presented by Kim Jong-un,” Harris said. “A strong diplomatic effort backed by a strong military effort is key.”
The show of force is aimed at bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table. Pyongyang must read the message clearly and accurately.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 23, Page 30
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