U.N. Command, North Korean Officers Meet to Reduce Tensions in Korea
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2009 General officers from the United Nations Command today called North Korean assertions that its army could not guarantee the safety of commercial aircraft flying near North Korean airspace “entirely inappropriate” during another historic meeting with North Korean army officers.
These statements “have raised great concern in the international aviation community and should be retracted immediately,” the U.N. delegation told the North Koreans, according to a UNC statement released after the 45-minute session in Panmunjom, located on the border between North and South Korea.
The UNC military officers also reassured the North Koreans that the upcoming Key Resolve-Foal Eagle exercises in Korea are purely defensive and are in no way connected to mounting tensions in the region.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Johnny Weida and military leaders from South Korea, United Kingdom and New Zealand represented the command at the meeting held to discuss ways to reduce tensions. North Korean Maj. Gen. Kwak Chul Hui represented the Korean People’s Army.
The meeting was the second this week between U.N. and North Korean generals, who previously had not met for more than six years.
The United States leads UNC, which monitors the armistice along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
The command’s delegation emphasized during today’s session that Key Resolve-Foal Eagle is an annual exercise and that North Korea is routinely notified when it takes place. This is done to ensure “transparency of purpose and to prevent miscalculation,” they told the North Koreans, according to the UNC statement.
Meanwhile, preparations continue for the exercises, which Pentagon officials said will run from March 9 to 20.
The amphibious command and control flagship USS Blue Ridge arrived in Busan, South Korea, yesterday to participate.
Army Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, called Key Resolve-Foal Eagle “an excellent opportunity to improve [South Korea]-U.S. combat readiness and joint-combined interoperability.”
Addressing participants in a message emphasizing safety during the exercises, he called the exercises “a key to our readiness and effective deterrence.”