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Change to Continue as U.S.-Korea Alliance Moves Forward

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2006 – Changes that have taken place in the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance are meant to find a "better balance" in the very successful pact, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

The balance between U.S. and Korean capacity allows each country to focus on those things that each country can contribute best to the alliance, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said.

Pace spoke to reporters about the U.S.-Korean Alliance and regional matters following a ceremony in which Army Gen. B.B. Bell took the reins of Combined Forces Command Korea and U.S. Forces Korea from retiring Army Gen. Leon LaPorte.

The chairman said that while alliance change will continue, Korean and U.S. capacity will combine to ensure forces on the peninsula have the strength needed to defeat any aggression.

North Korea is the threat. Pace said the alliance looks at North Korean capacities and capabilities and examines ways to counter and overwhelm them. Roughly 70 percent of North Korea's ground capabilities are close to the demilitarized zone, and any planning must take that under consideration, he said. Transformation of the Combined Forces Command is important so the alliance is prepared in case "someone up north miscalculates and decides to become aggressive again," Pace said.

The chairman said the alliance is fully capable of defeating any North Korean aggression, "and we will maintain that capacity."

Part of the problem of North Korea is fathoming the intentions of the criminal regime. "The definition of a threat from a military perspective is what is the potential enemy's capacity and capability, and what is their intent?" Pace said. "Having capacity and capability is not in and of itself a threat. But combining that with intent is a threat.

"Understanding the intent of the North Korean regime is very difficult," he continued. "So not knowing what their intent is, you need to be prepared to counter the regime's capabilities."

The U.S.-ROK alliance is studying the command arrangements. "The only ground rule is that when we come out, we have the most capable alliance we possibly can," Pace said. "That's been the ground rules for 50 years.

He said the two nations' command arrangements should "allow each nation to provide to the alliance what it is comfortable in providing in a way that allows us to combine together to defeat the North, should the North attack."

The chairman said many ways exist to change the command arrangements, but first the allies need to speak, and this should not be tough. "We're talking to good friends; we've been friends with the Korean people and government for more than 50 years," he said. "This is an opportunity, not a challenge. I guess if there were ground rules, they would be to do no harm and come out (as a coalition) as strong as when we went in."

Pace said he is optimistic about the future with regard to China. He said the economic bridges the two sides are building make both China and the United States increasingly dependent on each other. "When you do that, your lessen significantly any probability of military confrontation," he said.

But that optimism does not mean that China has a free ride, Pace emphasized. "Part of the responsibility of the United States military is not to pick out who you might have to fight in the future, but to understand the kind of capabilities that potential adversaries could have and position ourselves in a way that we are prepared to respond," he said.

He used the capabilities the United States exhibited in deposing the Taliban as an example. "Before Sept. 11, 2001, ... we did not have in mind the thought of going to Afghanistan," he said. "But we did have in mind the capacity for the military to be able to travel vast distances and close with overwhelming power very quickly."

The chairman said he and his Korean counterpart discussed South Korea's commitment of troops to Iraq, but did not discuss numbers. "No matter what has happened around the globe, when there has been a threat to peace, the Koreans have contributed," Pace said. "Whether it was Vietnam, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Afghanistan and now Iraq, they have stood side by side with us off the peninsula, just as we stand side by side with them here."

Korea has the third-largest foreign contingent in Iraq, with more than 3,600 soldiers based in Irbil. The Koreans plan to pull out about 1,000 troops in 2006. "Clearly the Korean government has made a statement by the number of troops that they sent -- that this is important to the Korean people and they are willing to assist others around the globe as others assisted them some 50 years ago," Pace said.

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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