Former USFK commanders call for stronger joint defense posture to deter N. Korea
SEOUL-- Former U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commanders called on Wednesday for a further strengthening of the combined readiness posture of South Korea and the U.S. in order to better counter persistent threats from North Korea.
Four former commanders -- Curtis Scaparrotti, James Thurman, Walter Sharp, and John Tilelli -- made the points during a forum on the South Korea-U.S. alliance held in Seoul a day before the two allies hold annual talks between their Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen.
"North Korea has not proved anything to date that they are going to denuclearize. So we have to stay focused on being able to defend the Korean Peninsula and to deter North Korea," Thurman told a session. He served as the USFK chief between July 2011 and Oct. 2013.
Asked about his view of the allies' modification of joint exercises since last year to support ongoing diplomacy involving the communist country, he stressed the importance of staying vigilant.
"If you want to prevent another bad war (on the Korean Peninsula) and deter North Koreans, you have to exercise. ... As military commanders, explain to your civilian leadership what the cost of not being ready is," he said.
Noting that North Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and to build conventional capabilities, Sharp said that the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) should continue to play a crucial role in deterring North Korea until it denuclearizes. Sharp took the helm of the USFK between June 2008 and July 2011.
Amid a lack of progress in denuclearization negotiations with the U.S., North Korea has carried out a series of weapons tests this year, including new types of short-range ground-based ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched missile.
Scaparrotti, who commanded USFK for about two and half years until April 2016, said that the presence of the U.S. troops on Korean soil is part of U.S. interests in the region.
Asked whether responses to North Korean missiles should be different depending on their ranges, he said that the U.S. should not differ in its approaches to the North's missiles -- whether they are short-range or long-range ones.
Calling the alliance between Seoul and Washington "unique," Tilelli said it is "about security, stability, survival, and deterrence and defense of the Northeast Asia and the whole world." He was in charge of the USFK from July 1996 through the end of 1999.
Wednesday's forum, hosted by the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation and the Korea Defense Veterans Association, also brought together four former CFC deputy commanders, who called for the maintenance of the staunch bilateral alliance and joint readiness posture.
In his congratulatory remarks, Defense Miniser Jeong Kyeong-doo said, "Despite ups and downs in the alliance, the two countries have overcome difficulties together with trust," and he called for stronger coordination and trust in the face of multiple challenges on and around the peninsula.
Source: Yonhap News Agency