General: Exercises vital to alliance readines in Korea
WASHINGTON — North Korea is investing in asymmetric systems such as special operations, cyber, and ballistic missiles as its conventional forces have declined in capability, the nominee to serve as the top U.S. and allied commander in South Korea told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee July 30.
Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti was testifying as part of the confirmation process to receive his fourth star and become the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command and Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
He currently serves as the director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.
The present strategy for dealing with North Korea -- one of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions -- is correct, Scaparrotti told the Senate panel.
“I think we have to be persistent and consistent with that strategy,” he said.
“I think the more influence we have, both in the region and internationally, … will be helpful in our strategy,” the general added. “And I think those [military-to-military] relationships are very important to progressing … to our objective about de-nuclearization of the peninsula.”
Joint U.S.-South Korea exercises such as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve are important parts of that influence building, as well as being vital to maintaining readiness on the peninsula, he said.
Scaparrotti said the exercises help to test and develop the milestones in Strategic Alliance 2015, the bilateral agreement to turn over wartime operational control of the Korean defense mission to South Korea in December 2015.
“I also think they're essential in terms of the integration that we're trying to attain and the improvement in both our forces and the Republic of Korea forces,” he added.
Sequestration eventually will put the mission in South Korea at risk, the general said. A reduction in the size of naval forces in the region would undercut the deterrent role they play in the eyes of North Korea and may lead to a greater possibility of miscalculation, Scaparrotti said.
U.S. forces in Korea remain comparatively unscathed by sequester, he said, but they eventually will feel its effects. “We already see the impact on readiness,” the general noted.
For now, though, U.S. Forces Korea enjoys a very high priority in terms of funding and resources, Scaparrotti said, “because we have to be ready to fight in Korea tonight. It's that uncertain.”
Despite concerns about costs, ongoing plans to relocate U.S. troops currently based near Seoul to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek are part of Strategic Alliance 2015, the general said.
“We've made agreements with our [South Korean] allies, and those moves are tied to that,” he said. “But I would say, too, that those moves help us posture our forces better,” Scaparrotti added.