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U.S., South Korean Forces Highly Ready

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 1997 – U.S. and South Korean forces are better-equipped and more ready now than at any time in the history of the alliance, Kurt M. Campbell recently told senators here.

"But maintaining capable, ready forces is a constant process," said Campbell, deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early July. He discussed threats facing U.S. and South Korean forces and what's being done to counter them.

America's 43-year-old alliance with South Korea serves as a bulwark against forces seeking to disturb the peace, Campbell said. "Our alliance is an essential element of the strategy for achieving our long-standing security goal -- a nonnuclear, peacefully reunified Korean Peninsula," he said.

The need for a combined U.S.-South Korean military force structure is more compelling than ever, Campbell said. "Today, the United States and South Korea confront twin security challenges on the Korean Peninsula -- deterrence of armed conflict and preparation for crises short of war."

The Korean Peninsula remains one of the world's most dangerous spots, with two-thirds of North Korea's 1.1 million troops poised within 100 kilometers of the demilitarized zone, Campbell said. A substantial artillery force is capable of striking Seoul with little advance notice. Missile and other weapon programs heighten concern about North Korea's intentions. The failure of North Korea's crops could result in famine, massive refugee flows or other crises.

Recent comments by a high-level North Korean defector about North Korea's willingness to resort to war at an opportune moment may or may not be true, Campbell said, but "they underscore the necessity for our unflagging vigilance against military moves by the North."

U.S. defense officials continue modernizing the 37,000-strong American force with the latest military equipment, including AH-64 helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, Global Positioning System receivers, frequency hopping radios and a pre-positioned equipment for a heavy brigade, he said.

South Korean officials are outfitting their force of 670,000 troops with the most modern tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled howitzers and fighter aircraft. "The Republic of Korea commitment of resources to defense has been impressive, with over 21 percent of the most recent government budget devoted to the military ... and has pledged more than $1 billion in cost-sharing support for U.S. forces on the peninsula from 1996 to 1998.

"Only South and North Korea can resolve the division of Korea," Campbell said. "The United States has worked hard to promote such a dialogue."

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