Pacom Commander Discusses North Korea Situation
WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 – While North Korea’s historic, alternating cycle of provocative attacks and inconclusive negotiations is well known, its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons limits any chance of meaningful international dialogue, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command told reporters yesterday.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, who was here this week as part of the U.S. delegation for security, strategic and economic dialogues with Chinese officials, responded to questions on North Korea’s intent.
North and South Korea, whose capitals are Pyongyang and Seoul, respectively, have maintained an uneasy cease-fire since 1953. Communist North Korea is allied with China, but under three generations of Kim family rule and a “military first” policy, its people have suffered widespread hunger and deprivation as North Korea pours its limited resources into its armed forces and nuclear weapons program.
While the United States has provided food to North Korea in times of famine, and assisted U.S. nongovernmental organizations with aid to fight infectious disease outbreaks and supply electricity at provincial hospitals, most other trade and aid is tightly restricted by U.S. and international economic sanctions.
“I don’t have a crystal ball on that one,” Locklear said when asked whether more provocations from Pyongyang are likely in the near future. “History would say that there would likely be one.”
Locklear added, however, that the position of countries in the region as well as the United States is “that North Korea must be committed to the total denuclearization [of the Korean Peninsula], and [present] a complete and verifiable plan to [do] that. And that's kind of the bottom-line entry of how you would get into a broader set of negotiations with North Korea at this time.”
During meetings in June, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingpin agreed that North Korea must denuclearize, that neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and that both nations would work to deepen U.S.-China cooperation and dialogue to achieve denuclearization.
Locklear said North Korea has a range of missiles, from short-range to intercontinental, but only the short-range missiles have been demonstrated. North Korea’s medium-range missile and a purported road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, he said, have not been credibly demonstrated.
North Korea’s leaders announced in December they had successfully launched a satellite. In February, they completed an underground nuclear test, and in subsequent months communications were cut off with South Korea, and Kaesong, a joint North-South business and industrial sector situated on the North Korean side of the border, was shuttered.
“The fact that they were able to successfully do that [launch] was a demonstration to us that they have the ability to put something into a larger ballistic orbit,” Locklear said. “Now, whether they can successfully take that technology and mate it with where they are in their nuclear program has not been demonstrated.”