USFK chief voices U.S. support for inter-Korean military accord

SEOUL, Outgoing U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks voiced U.S. support for the September inter-Korean military accord in a rare contribution to a South Korean military periodical published on Monday.

In the autumn edition of the periodical by Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Brooks commented on the confidence-building measures stipulated in the accord, saying they would help pave the way for a lasting peace on the peninsula.

His remarks appear aimed at dispelling concerns that Washington has opposed some parts of the agreement, as they could restrict U.S. military operations in border areas when North Korea has yet to take significant steps toward denuclearization.

"Today, confidence building measures specified in the historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain are underway with the support and agreement of the United States and the direct, enabling actions of the United Nations Command (UNC)," he wrote in the contribution.

The measures include disarming the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone, conducting a joint project to excavate Korean War remains in a section of the buffer zone and withdrawing some border guard posts on a trial basis.

"Together, these activities demonstrate a shared commitment to positive action and work to develop the trust essential to the next steps along the road to a lasting and stable peace," he added.

The military agreement also included setting up an expanded no-fly zone along the military demarcation line, which would restrict U.S. troops' training and surveillance activities near the heavily fortified border.

Amid reports on Washington's apparent unease over the agreement, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis voiced his support last week when asked if he fully backs it.

The September agreement fleshed out the military part of the summit declaration between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the truce village of Panmunjom in April.

The landmark declaration pledged to halt all hostile acts against each other on land, sea and air and practically eliminate the danger of war.

In his contribution, Brooks noted that the alliance has three choices in the midst of change in this security environment: remaining mired in the status quo and missing the change, embracing the change or leading it.

He called for the alliance to "take risk when it is sufficiently wedded to opportunity."

"We must acknowledge that change is a certainty, but our response represents a choice. Presently, the alliance is leading and I am confident it will continue to do so," he said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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