Panetta Reaffirms U.S. Commitment to South Korea Alliance

Dec 19, 2011 6:04pm

After Kim Jong-il’s  death, U.S. defense officials have consulted with their South Korean counterparts as they monitor the ongoing developments in North Korea.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little says that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called South Korean Defense Minister Gen. Kim Kwan-jin Monday morning to reaffirm  America’s  ”strong commitment” to stability on the Korean peninsula and to the alliance with South Korea.

“He made it clear that the United States stands with the Republic of Korea in this time of uncertainty,” said Little. 

During the 15-minute conversation, Little said “both men agreed that it was critical to remain prudent with respect to all matters related to our security posture there, and pledged to keep one another informed in the coming days.”

In Seoul, Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, met with Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, South Korea’s joint chiefs chairman,  to discuss how both militaries would continue to monitor developments in North Korea.   The United States has 28,500 military forces in South Korea, the vast majority of them from Army units. 

South Korea has raised its troops to emergency alert status, but the U.S. military has not changed its security posture.  Little said that “U.S.  force protection levels in South Korea have not changed” and “not been elevated.”  He also said  no unusual North Korean military movements connected to the death of Kim Jong-il have been detected.

On Monday, North Korea conducted a missile test, launching two small missiles from its eastern coast.   A senior defense official says the  U.S. believes the launches were  planned to take place before Kim Jong II’s death.

Traveling in Germany, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey  said the U.S. and South Korea have not seen any change “in North Korean behavior of a nature that would alarm us.”   

According to a report by the U.S. Forces Press Service, Dempsey said the U.S. and South Korea had quickly set up a network “to discuss this issue and to determine what we could do to contribute to understanding what might happen next,” Dempsey said.  “It is my expectation … that he will be the successor,” the chairman said of Kim Jong-un,  Kim Jong-il’s 28-year-old son who has has already been identified by North Korea as the “Great Successor.”

“Dempsey said of  Kim Jong-un, “ I would only say at this point that he is young to be put in this position, and we will have to see if it, in fact, is him and how he reacts to the burden of governance that he hasn’t had to deal with before.”

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