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GEN. RYDER: All right, great. Thank you very much.
Hey, well, good afternoon, and thanks very much for calling in. As a reminder, today's press briefing is on the record. I'm joined today by Army Lieutenant General D.A. Sims, the Joint Staff J3 director of operations, who's here to provide some information on the White House's executive order being announced today regarding Operation Atlantic Resolve, how this action enables the U.S. to better support and sustain DOD's enhanced presence and level of operations in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility over the long term.
General Sims, thank you for joining us today, Sir. Over to you.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL DOUGLAS A. SIMS II: Pat. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining the call. It's been nearly a decade since the start of U.S. European Command's Operation Atlantic Resolve. Since 2014, U.S. European Command has provided combat-credible forces for rotational deployment to Europe. These forces continue to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO, while building readiness, increasing interoperability and enhancing the bonds between allies and partners.
Today, the president signed an executive order approving the mobilization of select reserve forces under 12304 authorities, with no more than 3,000 personnel augmenting the Armed Forces in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Additionally, Operation Atlantic Resolve will be designated as a contingency operation. This new designation benefits troops and families with increases in authorities, entitlements and access to reserve component forces and personnel.
Based on the level of presence and operations in the U.S. EUCOM area of operations, DOD's support requirements have grown, as well. These authorities will enable the department to better support and sustain its enhanced presence and level of operations in the U.S. EUCOM AOR.
Lastly, this reaffirms the unwavering support and commitment to the defense of NATO's eastern flank in wake of Russia's illegal and unprovoked war on Ukraine.
I look forward to answering your questions.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you very much, General Sims.
GEN. RYDER: Ladies and gentlemen, just a reminder to please put your phones on mute if you're not asking a question. Also, this briefing will be in two parts today. General Sims has time to take a few questions. I'd ask that you limit those questions to Atlantic Resolve or operations-related questions, and then afterwards, I'll provide some additional topper information and stick around to answer any follow-on questions.
Our first question will go to Lita Baldor, Associated Press.
Q: Hi. Thank you, and thanks General Sims. One quick question on Atlantic Resolve. Where are these forces going? And what is it expected that they're going to be doing? Can you just give us a bit detail on this deployment? And then, I don't know how to divide up the questions, so I don't know if this is for you or for Pat. But I'm just looking for someone to confirm that the cluster munitions have, indeed, been delivered to Ukraine at this point. Thanks.
GEN. SIMS: Thanks, Lita. So first of all, in terms of where forces will go, it's really up to the U.S. European Command commander's decision. These are not additional forces; these are forces that will augment what we already have there. So as an example, over time, where we may have had someone from an active-component organization doing something, that job now under these authorities may be something that a reserve component unit may be able to do.
And I can't really give you a particular unit or type of unit. It will really depend on what's required from the commander. Based on that, he'd come back and request that, and we would work with U.S. EUCOM and the services to fill that responsibility.
And then on your second question, there are cluster munitions in Ukraine at this time.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you very much. All right, our next question will go to Missy Ryan, Washington Post.
Q: Hi. Hi. Can you guys hear me?
GEN. RYDER: We can hear you.
Q: OK. Lieutenant General Sims, for you, could you give us your assessment of the reasons for what we're seeing in Ukraine's counteroffensive in terms of their -- like, are there sort of smaller advances and sort of small -- the smaller scale of the operations that we're seeing? How would you explain to people who aren't familiar with the situation? Why is that happening at this point?
And then Pat, if possible, can you just talk about whether the secretary's call with Senator Tuberville? Thanks.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, Missy, I'll -- so I'll come back after we're done with General Sims's portion and address that. But over to General Sims.
GEN. SIMS: Well, Missy, I think if I could sum it up in a single word, I'd tell you it's because it's really hard. You know, we're talking about, you know, actual human beings that are in the midst of some pretty severe fighting. So if you look at this in this case, you know, we have, you know, men and women who are incorporating new techniques. They're using new equipment and they're doing that all while being shot at and bombed, not to mention the -- the -- and if you've seen in other places, extensive mining that the Russians have put in place. And so where they are gaining hundreds of meters a day, maybe a kilometer a day in some places, they're doing that at great cost in terms of effort.
And so just back to my opening comment there, it's really, really hard. I don't think it's impossible, and I think that's what we're seeing from the Ukrainians, is that they are really making a go of it in great order, really, across the battlefield. It may not be at the speed that we would prefer. You know, if you use an historic example and if you look at this country, with the exception of the Gulf War, where we, you know, had gone pretty fast through that, we had done a bunch of preparation prior to our crossing the berm in the Gulf War, let me take you back to World War II -- I mean, just from the time when we hit the beaches at D-Day, you were looking at two months before the breakout.
So this is hard warfare, it's in really tough terrain, it's under fire, and really, when you consider all of that, it's pretty remarkable.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you, sir. All right, next question, we'll go to Patrick Tucker, Defense One.
Q: Hey, yeah, thank you for doing this. Very recently, Romania has suggested that it -- a coalition of 11 countries are going to start training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s in Romania. You have Denmark supporting, a couple other nations supporting.
Real quick, can you talk about how the U.S. might be willing to support that effort? Understanding that there's no announcement being made today on giving Ukraine F-16s, is there any role that you guys are looking to play in supporting this training effort that will take place in Romania? And how might that shift decision making on F-16s going forward?
GEN. SIMS: Sir, I'm going to see if Pat has a better answer on that than me, and if not, then we'll circle back with you and get you a good response.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much, Sir. Pat, so just real quick, as you've heard us say, Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the lead on the F-16 training. I don't have any new announcements to make today from the Pentagon, in terms of, you know, the specific role that the U.S. will play once that program is codified and implemented, other than to say of course, you know, we do support those efforts and appreciate the leadership that Denmark and the Netherlands are providing on that front.
So as we have new details to provide, we'll be sure to do that. Thank you.
Q: OK, a quick follow-up -- this rotational aspect, is -- does it assume additional U.S. forces being in Romania, any force posture change in Romania, U.S. forces?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again, at this point, as I highlighted and as we saw at the last Contact Group, Denmark and the Netherlands are putting together what this program will look like, and I just don't have anything to announce in terms of whether or not U.S. forces would be a part of any specific training effort, in terms of instructors or any other capabilities on that front.
So again, we'll come back to you when and if we have anything to announce. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Let's go to Chris Gordon, Air and Space Forces Magazine.
Q: Thank you, Sir. General Sims, the Russians have challenged U.S. drones over Syria. Does the Russian challenge mean the U.S. needs to extend the deployment of the F-22s in the Middle East? Will you need to change the air composition or air operations in the region to deter this threat, which comes from a near peer competitor? Thank you.
GEN. SIMS: Yeah, thanks for the question, Chris. So the -short answer would be no. You know, there are agreements and conversations every day between our forces and the Russians about the proper way to conduct operations in and around one another. In this case, the Russian actions were in violation of those agreements. They've agreed to this in the past and clearly that didn't mean much to them.
We -- you know, we have the capability present where we need it. I believe that the combatant commander -- in this case, in the Central Command -- has all the necessary assets, if there was an issue. We don't anticipate an issue, nor do we see a level of escalation we're concerned about in Syria.
GEN. RYDER: Sir. We'll go to Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg.
Q: Hi, General. A couple questions. When you said cluster munitions have already arrived over in Ukraine, are those the U.S. DPICMs or are those allied cluster munitions? And I had a follow-up.
GEN. SIMS: It’s both. We know that there were some provided by a third country before, but yes, the U.S. cluster munitions are in Ukraine.
Q: All right. Is there any practice of deploying them effectively and minimizing any kind of civilian or Ukraine soldier military casualties? Can you give us just a couple minutes on the theory and practice of doing that, using them effectively but yet not endangering your own forces?
GEN. SIMS: Yeah, so our forces are -- our folks in Europe are in constant communications with Ukrainian leadership on all sorts of thoughts about, you know, tactics, techniques, and procedures. This is certainly is one of them, and we've talked with Ukrainian leadership about the employment of cluster munitions.
I would tell you I don't think that the Ukrainians have any interest in using the cluster munitions in -- anywhere near the civilian population, unlike the Russians. You know, there are -- they also acknowledge and understand the potential for, you know, duds that result -- in this case, a very, very low dud rate -- opposite what the Russians do.
So the Russian cluster munitions we know have an extraordinarily high dud rate and we also know that the Russians have employed these weapons against civilians, in civilian communities, which is a significant difference from what the Ukrainians intend to do. The Ukrainians intend to use the cluster munitions in the tactical environment against Russians, not against civilians.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you very much. OK, we've got time for just a few more for General Sims. We'll go to Meredith Roaten from Janes.
Q: Hi, thank you so much for doing this. My first question is can you talk any more about if there's going to be any new equipment that would go over to EUCOM with this Atlantic Resolve expansion?
And then the second part of my question is about telemaintenance for Ukrainian weapons systems. That's something that the U.S. Army has talked a lot about for sustainment with Ukrainians, and I was wondering if you think that that level of telemaintenance is satisfactory for the counter-offensive right now or is there more support needed from defense companies? Thank you.
GEN. SIMS: Yes, ma'am, thanks for the questions.
On the first one, I really can't talk about the equipment that'll be used, just because the units that may be employed in the future haven't been identified. So -- but again, we're not adding anybody to the organization, so it's probably the same general equipment that's been used up to this point for Atlantic Resolve.
As to the telemaintenance, you know, we have had significant telemaintenance efforts -- or we've been going through that now for quite some time, and I think, you know, as you would expect, maintenance in a combat environment, particularly on the front lines with an organization that is moving forward, is hard, regardless of, you know, where you are.
We do continue to employ that telemaintenance. What we're finding is that the Ukrainians, as they have done in the past, have really proved remarkable in their ability to conduct maintenance in contact, so to speak. And so they've been very effective with getting the rates of their equipment back up in situations in which they are, you know, not losses.
GEN. RYDER: Thanks very much. Let's go to Lara Seligman, Politico.
Q: Hi, Sir. Thanks so much for doing this. I wanted to ask you about the counter-offensive and -- since it is going a little slower than some may have liked, it seems like perhaps this might last longer as well. And as we go into the fall, you look at new U.S. equipment that is potentially arriving -- the Abrams, for example, maybe even F-16s. Can you talk at all about what kind of capability those weapons would bring to the counteroffensive and how useful that would be?
GEN. SIMS: Yes, sure, Ma'am. Well, let me start with air. We've said this for a while, you know, this -- the conditions on the environment certainly are changing over time. But the conditions right now for the employment of the F-16s are probably not -- they're probably not ideal. I mean, the Russians still possess some air defense capability. They have air capability. And the number of F-16s that would be provided may not be perfect for what's going on right now. As the future changes, that certainly will dictate how that is employed.
In terms of the Abrams, you know, the Abrams will certainly make a difference on the battlefield. I mean, we know it's an extraordinary tank. And, you know, the training ongoing right now will make them, you know, I would think, extraordinarily good at employing them. I can't tell you whether the offensive would still be going on by then or not, I just know that when the Abrams arrive, they'll be able to make a difference with Ukrainians.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you, Sir.
And final question for General Sims will go to Mikayla Easley, DefenseScoop.
Q: I want to pass right now, but thank you so much.
GEN. RYDER: All right. Well, thank you very much, General Sims.
Ladies and gentlemen, we'll pause for just a moment, then I'll be right back with you.
OK. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. We'll pivot to some additional items today. A couple of things to pass along and then I'll be happy to take your questions.
So following a successful NATO Summit in Lithuania, Secretary Austin will return to Washington, D.C., later today. As President Biden highlighted in his remarks from Vilnius, the NATO Alliance remains a bulwark of global security and stability, and is stronger, more energized, and more united than ever. The summit also made clear that the U.S. and the international community continue to resolutely stand alongside Ukraine as they fight to defend their nation and take back their sovereign territory.
On a related note, next week on July 18, Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley will host a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. They will join ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from nearly 50 nations from around the world to discuss Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, and continue close coordination to provide Ukraine with the security assistance they need to protect their people and defend their country. Additional information will be provided in the near future.
And finally, in other news, U.S. and Israeli forces just concluded Exercise Juniper Oak 23.3, which ran July 9 through 12, and built on the great interoperability our militaries exercise during Juniper Oak 23.2 in January. Focus areas for the event included bilateral cyber incident response, agile combat deployment, and aerial refueling. The Juniper series training is essential to building and maintaining military interoperability and ensuring Israel's qualitative military edge. Juniper Oak 23.3 represents another milestone in the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel and is an important step in promoting regional stability.
And with that, I am happy to take your questions.
We'll go to Lita Baldor, Associated Press.
Q: Thanks, Pat. I'm going to let other people who didn't have a question yet go. Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: OK. Thanks.
And our next -- in that case, let me go back to Missy Ryan, I know you had a question about Senator Tuberville and Secretary Austin.
Q: Yeah, just did they speak today? And if so, can you give us any readout or whether there was any indication that the holds will be lifted? Thanks.
GEN. RYDER: Sure. Thanks, Missy. So today, at Secretary Austin's request, he did briefly speak with Senator Tuberville to discuss the unprecedented blanket hold the Senator has placed on hundreds of general officer and flag officer nominees at the Department of Defense.
During the brief call, Secretary Austin explained to Senator Tuberville the impact the holds are having to military readiness and uncertainty in the force. The call follows Secretary Austin's remarks on Monday at the Relinquishment of Responsibility for the Marine Corps, which is now without a confirmed Commandant in place for the first time in more than 100 years.
This conversation also follows a call initiated by Secretary Austin earlier this year, as well as ongoing engagement at the staff level. The two did agree to speak again next week. Thank you.
Let me go to -- I'll try to get to folks that haven't had a chance to ask a question yet but I'll try to get through most of the list here. So let me go to Haley Britzky, CNN. Haley, are you there? OK, nothing heard. Let me go to Paul Shinkman, U.S. News.
Q: Yeah, hi, Pat. Excuse me. It's been a couple weeks now since -- I wanted to ask you about the Wagner Group in Ukraine. It's been a couple weeks since Prigozhin withdrew his troops from some front line positions and they were replaced with new Chechen units. Have you noticed any tangible effect on the battlefield, either in those places around Bakhmut or in general, about the way that Russia is waging the war, either as a result of the Wagner withdrawal or the presence of these new Chechen forces? Thank you. Hello?
(UNKNOWN): Yeah, comms went down.
GEN. RYDER: Hey, apologies, folks. Can you hear me now?
(UNKNOWN): Yep, can hear you just fine.
GEN. RYDER: OK, I'm sorry about that. So Paul, I answered your question and then realized I was talking to myself. So did you hear my response or do I need to repeat that?
Q: No, I didn't hear anything. You -- I just got dead air after I asked it and I was worried maybe I -- I ...
GEN. RYDER: Man, it was a great answer. OK, next question.
No -- all right -- OK, so your question was what are we seeing in regards to Wagner, as it relates to Ukraine, and on -- participation on the battlefield. So broadly speaking, at this stage, we do not see Wagner forces participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine.
You know, you've heard me talk before about, as of right now, the majority of those forces we assess are still in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, but really effectively are no longer contributing as a significant combat capability.
Obviously something we'll continue to keep our eyes on but that's kind of where things stand right now.
Q: And General Ryder, I also asked about the new presence of Chechen forces in Ukraine. Do they seem to be making any sort of difference on the battlefield?
GEN. RYDER: I really don't have anything on that, Paul, so not really able to provide any insight unfortunately.
Q: OK. Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Thank you. OK, let's go to Jonathan Lehrfeld, Military Times.
Q: Hi, Sir, thank you for doing this. I just wanted to quickly follow up regarding the comments on Senator Tuberville. Can you talk more about whether the conversation that Secretary Austin had was productive? What will be taking place at this next call? And what is the ask going to be from either party in terms of kind of finding a solution from this? Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much, Jonathan. So I really don't have much more to provide in terms of the substance of the call, beyond what I gave you. Again, you know, the hope here is that Senator Tuberville will lift his holds. As you've heard Secretary Austin say, this is a national security issue, and the fact that continuing to hold these senior leader nominations will have an effect on military readiness, given, in large part, the second and third order effects.
And I've talked a little bit about this before -- you know a key principle in the effectiveness of our military is a well-defined chain of command. And so any uncertainty that's introduced about incoming or outgoing commanders and senior leaders can make it difficult to plan for or advance mission requirements.
And you've also heard me say that, by design, our force management is predicated on an up-or-out system -- so as promotions stagnate, it prevents lower tiers from being promoted into key positions, which creates a domino effect.
So ultimately, this all has an impact on the families of service members awaiting updates regarding new assignments, which then gets into questions about things like housing, schools, other aspects associated with a move.
So the Secretary will and the staff here will continue to engage with the Senator and his staff, and we're hopeful that there can be a resolution soon.
All right, let me go to Mike Stone, Reuters.
Q: Thank you. Sullivan said they were talking about long range rockets in Europe but they didn't specify a system. Do you know what they were discussing? That's the first question. The second one is has there been any more discussion about close air support for Ukraine recently? Thanks.
GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Mike. So I'd have to refer you to the White House on that. I don't have any additional insight to provide.
As it relates to close air support, can you clarify a little bit more about what -- what you mean?
Q: Yeah -- yeah, the -- just is there any renewed discussion on close air support for Ukraine or -- to close air support assets to Ukraine?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't have anything to announce right now, in terms of additional capabilities, beyond what we've provided. Certainly, Ukraine maintains an Air Force which includes a close air support capability. And so yeah -- but beyond that, Mike, I don't have anything new to announce.
OK, let me try Haley again from CNN. OK, nothing heard. All right, let me go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.
Q: Thank you very much. General Sims had mentioned that the Operation Atlantic Resolve's now a contingency operation. Can you say whether that means U.S. troops going to Europe are now going to be eligible for new special pays and benefits? Also, the General used the term "augment." Did he mean "replace," as in these 3,000 forces will replace active duty forces, not be in addition to?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much for the question, Jeff. So really, the key thing here, in terms of declaring Atlantic Resolve a contingency operation, is that it unlocks capabilities and authorities that, as I highlighted at the top, enables us to provide better support and sustain our forces.
So this includes things like increased contracting responsiveness, personnel-related entitlements that -- that give activated reservists the same benefits as active component personnel. It also, as a Secretary level operation, enhances our ability to track spending directly associated with this contingency.
And I apologize -- the second part of your question?
Q: Yeah, is it accurate to describe these forces as replacing rather than augmenting?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so the way to think about it is what it does is it provides additional access to reserve component forces. So you're now able to call on Guard or reserve forces to come support Atlantic Resolve, and as I just highlighted, be entitled to the same kind of benefits as their active duty counterparts. So -- it's not additional forces, it's unlocking additional forces for use in support of this operation, if that makes sense.
GEN. RYDER: OK, let's go to Ryo Nakamura, Nikkei.
Q: Hi. Thank you very much. Two questions about Assistant Secretary Ratner’s meeting with the Chinese Ambassador yesterday. After the meeting, is the Pentagon more optimistic about reopening military-to-military talks with the Chinese in the near future?
And secondly, according to the Chinese readout, the Ambassador indicated U.S. should lift sanctions on Defense Minister Li again. Does the Pentagon's position on the sanctions remain the same before and after the meeting? Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Thanks very much, Ryo. So as you saw from our readout, there was a meeting yesterday at the Pentagon. And in terms of communication -- military-to-military communication, that is something that we will continue to seek out. As you've heard us say many times before, we think it's important to keep those channels of communication open. And so we will continue to pursue that.
In terms of lifting of sanctions, I'd refer you to the State Department to talk about that. As we've said before, there is no barrier to communication between Secretary Austin and his counterpart, as it relates to these sanctions. Secretary Austin can talk to his counterpart, and of course that is something that we would welcome.
So we'll continue to do everything we can to keep those lines of communication open. Thank you.
All right, let me go to Ashley Roque from Breaking Defense.
Q: Hi, Pat. I wanted to ask about reports yesterday of the hacking of Microsoft emails. What implications does it have for DOD? Are you investigating? I mean, have you found anything yet?
GEN. RYDER: Sure. Thanks very much for the questions. So as of right now, I'm not aware of any impact on DOD. I know that the FBI is investigating this. So they're the right folks to talk to, broadly speaking, about potential impact on the U.S. government, but right now, there's been no impact on DOD operations that I'm aware of. Thank you.
Let me go to Rebecca Hartmann, BBC.
Q: Hi, thank you so much for this. So my questions just relate to President Biden and committing to support Ukraine for as long as the war continues. He said in -- reported that Russia doesn't have the capacity -- he doesn't think Russia has the capacity or supply to keep going for years. My question is does the U.S. have the supplies and capacity to support Ukraine for years? And what -- and can you give any indication of resources that America can offer going forward?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks for the question. Well, I think the key differentiator here is that Russia is isolated and alone, beyond perhaps Iran, when it comes to conducting their illegal and unprovoked invasion inside Ukraine.
The United States, as you heard me say at the top, is working very closely with more than 50 nations around the world to support Ukraine and ensure that they have the security assistance they need to defend their country and take back sovereign territory.
And so it's important not to look at this as just the U.S. We're all contributing capabilities to provide to Ukraine. And importantly, we're all combining and working together when it comes to our defense industrial bases to enable us to not only provide security assistance to Ukraine but also replenish our own stocks, when it comes to the kinds of capabilities we need to do things like defend NATO and protect our mutual security interests around the world. Thank you.
All right, let me go to Liz Friden, Fox News.
Q: Hey, thanks for doing this, Pat. My first question is on the backlog of weapons to Taiwan. How have military leaders diplomatically sort of made up for that gap? And has it affected relations at all with Taiwan?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much, Liz. So what I would tell you is that, first and foremost, we're going to continue to work with Taiwan to ensure that they have the capabilities that they need to defend themselves, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.
As you heard us talk about before, we have stood up a Foreign Military Sales Task Force to look broadly at how we are able to work closely with industry to address things like supply chain shortages, the impacts of COVID, et cetera, to speed up that process, not just with Taiwan but with countries around the world. And so that's something that we will continue to do.
Q: Thank you so much, Pat. And then just one more -- on the Microsoft hack, were any DOD or military officials affected by it? And how did it get past Cyber Command?
GEN. RYDER: Again, Liz, as I highlighted to Ashley, I'm not aware of any impact on the Department of Defense at this time but I would refer you to the FBI for any questions about, you know, the broader hack here, as it's being reported.
OK, let me go to James LaPorta of The Messenger.
Q: Hi. So on Friday, Dr. Kahl didn't say how many DPICMs had actually -- he declined to say how many were going to Ukraine, and now General Sims is saying today that they're there. The White House and Pentagon has not been shy at touting exactly how much ammunition has gone to Ukraine. Can you say how many DPICMs have gone to Ukraine or why there's an OPSEC issue on this?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, absolutely, James. So there are some munitions, just based on the types of things we're talking about from an OPSEC standpoint, you know, we'll talk in general terms, and there's going to be other types of capabilities that we won't for OPSEC reasons because, as I'm sure you can appreciate, if you're Russian intelligence, you know, there's certainly information that's going to be useful to you to know about expenditure rates and things like that. So those are things we're just not going to talk about.
As General Sims highlighted, some DPICMs have been delivered to Ukraine already, but again, I'm not going to get into the total number that we will deliver or delivery timelines.
Q: Can you say what -- you know, how many of the -- of a certain variant has gone over, in terms of variant shells?
GEN. RYDER: I really can't get into more detail than what we've provided. So appreciate your understanding on that.
All right, let me go to Caitlin from New York Post.
Q: Hey. Asked and answered. Thank you so much.
GEN. RYDER: OK, thank you.
We have time for just a couple more here. Let me go to Patrick Tucker, Defense One. Pat may have jumped off. All right, let me go to Janne from Korea News.
Q: Yeah. Hi, General. Can you hear me?
GEN. RYDER: I can hear you.
Q: Yeah, thank you very much. I have a couple of questions about the -- North Korea. First, do you know that North Korea fired the long range missile from Pyongyang to the east coast after threatening U.S. reconnaissance aircraft activities? And it is claiming that this ICBM launch was Hwasong-18 type. What is the DOD's assessment of this?
Secondly, the North Korean military commander is warning that if the United States continues its reconnaissance activities against North Korea, it could face danger. Will the United States continue its reconnaissance activities despite these? Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Janne. So I don't have any information -- additional information to provide as it relates to the ICBM launch, in terms of specific intelligence on that launch.
As it relates to U.S. operations in the region, as you've heard us say, we're going to continue to fly wherever international law allows. Our aircraft were flying and continue to fly in international airspace. So any statement to the contrary is patently false. Thank you.
Q: But today, North Korean General Headquarters had declared that it will continue strong military offensive if the U.S. does not stop its hostile policy or actions. How prepared is the U.S. to respond to contingency plan?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'd really turn it around. Nothing that we're doing is hostile. The activities that we're conducting, whether it be exercises or regional presence, are all defensive in nature, intended to strengthen our deterrence with our important allies, like the Republic of Korea and Japan, and to demonstrate and improve our interoperability.
I would say that the provocative actions of launching missiles into the ocean and continuing to put out belligerent rhetoric serves to destabilize the region. So we -- again, we would call on North Korea to stop its provocative behavior. As you've heard the White House and State Department say and us, the door is open to diplomacy and we would hope that North Korea would take advantage of that opportunity.
Again, our focus is on regional security and stability and peace for all peoples living in that region. Thank you, Janne, appreciate it.
All right, time for just a couple more. Let me go to Sam LaGrone, USNI News.
Q: Hi, General Ryder. So do you have any overarching guidance from OSD to the flag officers and the general officers that are kind of stalled out? Are you all managing that on the service level or is there any kind of overall, like, Pentagon instructions on how to handle that? Thanks.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks for the question, Sam. I'm not aware of any overarching guidance, per se. You know, as a general officer, job number one is to do the mission that you have and to follow the orders of the officers, you know, that are appointed over you, in accordance with our oath.
So we'll continue to stay focused on the mission and, you know, I'll leave it at that.
OK, let me -- last question will go to Lara Seligman, Politico.
Q: No further questions. Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: OK. All right, well, thanks so much, everyone. I appreciate your time today. Thanks for your flexibility and -- on the phone call and we'll talk to you later. Out here.
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