Hagel, Dempsey Discuss North Korea, Iran, Cyber Challenges
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2013 North Korea remains a dangerous and unpredictable country, and the United States needs to be prepared for every option and contingency, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Senate panel today.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies as Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks on during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2013. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Hagel made the comments as he and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the Defense Department’s budget. But senators’ questions quickly turned to other issues, including threats posed by Iran, cyberattacks and North Korea.
“We know the kind of armaments and artillery that [North Korea has] lined up against Seoul, [and] their capacity,” the secretary told the panel. That’s why the Pentagon deployed a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in Guam to protect U.S. assets, he added.
“We have to be prepared for every option, every contingency,” Hagel said.
North Korea has continued to develop long-range missiles, and in February carried out its third test of a nuclear device in defiance of United Nations resolutions.
Dempsey told lawmakers the U.S. national security interests in relation to North Korea are to defend the homeland, preserve the Korean Armistice, mitigate the risk of the North’s weapons and protect America’s allies in the region.
Hagel was asked what role China, North Korea’s only ally in the region, could play if it chose to rein in North Korea.
“The Chinese have more influence with North Korea than any country,” the secretary replied. “I would say the Chinese have been helpful in dealing with the North Koreans.” President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, discussed the North Korea situation during their summit last weekend in California, he noted.
The United States and China also have spent considerable time at the presidential level discussing U.S. accusations of Chinese involvement in cyberattacks, Hagel said, and he made clear that he raised the issue during a keynote address at an Asian security conference last week in Singapore.
“I specifically noted that we were aware that many of these attacks are emanating from China,” he said. Hagel termed cyberattacks “probably the most insidious, dangerous, threat overall to this country, and there are lots of threats.”
On Iran, Hagel and Dempsey both said Tehran has not made a decision to build a nuclear weapon, but appears to be positioning itself to preserve that option. U.S. policy, Hagel said, remains “preventing the Iranians from acquiring any capability to weaponize.”
Regarding Iran, Dempsey said the Pentagon has options “both for their acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but also for the other things they are doing,” including cyberattacks and weapons proliferation.
Asked how a nuclear-armed, Shiite-ruled Iran could destabilize the region, Dempsey said Sunnis in the region could feel threatened.
“It is certainly conceivable that someone on the Sunni side of the ledger would feel obligated to do the same,” he said, “and then we're off to what could potentially be a regional arms race.”