North Korea’s Nuclear Activities Destabilize Region, U.S. Commander Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2008 North Korea’s assertions of its nuclear weapons capability and the likelihood that it’s proliferating weapons of mass destruction represent a huge security risk for the region and the world, the top U.S. commander in Korea told Pentagon reporters today.
“I worry about it every day,” Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said of concerns that North Korea is exporting its weapons of mass destruction and missile technology to those who could use it against the United States and other countries.
“So am I confident it’s not happening? No,” Sharp continued. “But I think it’s one of the concerns that we have with North Korea and will continue to have in the future.”
Sharp declined to verify news reports that North Korea conducted a short-range missile test yesterday, but said the United States is keeping a close eye on these and related developments.
“I can’t say anything specific, but I will say that we continue to be concerned about the development, the proliferation and the testing of missile systems in North Korea,” he said. “They have a long history of that, and it is a danger for the region, and we’re concerned about it.”
Intelligence sources are monitoring North Korea’s activities “very closely,” Sharp said, and the United States and other countries are working together to discourage them. “We take necessary actions to try to minimize [those activities],” he said. “It’s all our obligations to be able to watch that, report it and stop it.”
Meanwhile, Sharp said it’s evident that North Korea has reneged on its commitment made through the Six-Party Talks. “They’re not following through,” he said. That, he said, is why Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill recently returned to North Korea to try to salvage the plan.
“We want to be sure that … what [North Korean leader Kim Jong Il] agreed to in the Six-Party talks, he is actually accomplishing,” Sharp said. “And Secretary Hill is working very hard on that as he works through those negotiations.”
Sharp expressed the hope that the State Department’s efforts to achieve stability in the region will succeed. “I am hopeful that their efforts will bear fruit and that North Korea will abide by its agreement that has been made throughout that process,” he said.
While watching to ensure “there’s nothing out of the ordinary that’s happening up north,” U.S. Forces Korea and Republic of Korea forces stand ready to defend South Korea in the event that deterrence fails, Sharp said. “We’re really focusing on our capability to be able to react,” he said.