While tensions are down along the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, the process has not gone far enough for forces there to relax, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams said the U.S.-South Korea military alliance is strong and effective. “Our combined force is a strategic deterrent postured to respond potential crisis or provocation and if called upon ready to defend the Republic of Korea and our allies in the region,” he said.
The general noted there are tremendous opportunities on the Korean Peninsula. Engagements continue among the United States, South Korea and North Korea. At the end of the month, President Donald J. Trump will meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.
No Change to North’s Military Capabilities
These engagements have led to a significant reduction in tension on the peninsula. North Korea has not conducted provocative missile launches that threaten its neighbors. “Diplomacy is creating the opportunity for North Korea to choose the path of denuclearization, forge a lasting peace and build a better future for its people,” Abrams said.
But despite the reduction in tensions, “little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea’s military capabilities,” the general said.
The North Korean army’s winter training cycle includes full-spectrum exercises at historical norms, Abrams said. “We have observed no significant changes to size, scope or timing of their ongoing exercises compared to the same time period over the last four years,” he said.
North Korea’s conventional and asymmetric military capabilities remain unchecked. “These capabilities continue to hold the United States, the Republic of Korea and our regional allies at risk,” Abrams said, “as such I believe it is necessary to maintain a postured and ready force to deter any possible aggressive actions.”
Allied military capabilities on the peninsula allow diplomats to deal with North Korea from a position of strength.
U.S. and South Korean forces must continue to exercise the core competencies necessary to the planning and execution of joint and combined operations under the strain of crisis, the general said. “We must also strike a balance between the need to train and the requirement to create space for diplomacy to flourish,” he said.
The command is modifying the size, scope, volume and timing of exercises “to remain in harmony with diplomatic and political requirements without sacrificing warfighting readiness to unacceptable levels,” Abrams said.