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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Military Balance on Korean Peninsula Continues, General Says

30 June 2005

Top U.S. commander in Korea unfazed by North Korea's weaponry

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- North Korea might have one or two nuclear weapons, but that has not upset the military balance on the Korean Peninsula, according to General Leon LaPorte, the commander of U.S. and U.N. forces in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and U.S.-ROK combined forces.

During a June 29 radio interview in Seoul, LaPorte said he believed that North Korea has one or two nuclear weapons "at a minimum."  But he added:  "Whether North Korea has one or several nuclear weapons does not change the balance on the peninsula. The U.S. and the Republic of Korea retain our ability to deter North Korean aggression and if required, to decisively defeat the North Korean threat if they were to threaten South Korea."

LaPorte also said that North Korea continues to develop, produce, deploy and sell ballistic missiles and ballistic missile technology of "increasing range and sophistication" to augment its large operational force of Scud and No Dong class missiles.  He noted that North Korea's Taepo Dong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile could deliver a nuclear warhead to parts of the United States if a third rocket stage were added to boost its range.

Although he refused to give detailed information, LaPorte said the United States and its allies "continue to develop counter measures for the proliferation of both weapons of mass destruction and missiles that North Korea has developed and is continuing to develop."

LaPorte denied rumors that the U.S. deployment of F-117 Stealth Fighter planes to South Korea may be in preparation for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.  According to the general, the Stealth Fighter deployment was "a normal training rotation that had been scheduled for many months in advance.  It demonstrates the commitment of the United States to our allies."

The general noted that, during the recent presidential summit between ROK President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush, both leaders clearly stated their commitment to resolving the North Korean nuclear weapons issue through diplomacy, in cooperation with other regional neighbors.

"The Republic of Korea and the United States enjoy one of the longest standing alliances in the history of the world," LaPorte said, and both nations "remain close and committed to preserving peace and stability here on the peninsula."

"The U.S. Government fully supports the February 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the general said.  He said the United States supports the Six-Party Talks  -- which include North and South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States -- and joins those nations in seeking a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

Although the U.S. Force Korea command is planning to reduce the number of American troops now in South Korea, it is increasing its capabilities "significantly," LaPorte said, noting that the United States has "infused nearly 11 billion dollars worth of combat capability enhancements towards improvement in deterrence in support of the defense of Republic of Korea."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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