[SEOUL, South Korea, Aug. 14, 2017] The U.S.-South Korean alliance can defend South Korea, Pacific allies and the American homeland from nuclear and missile threats emanating from North Korea, two top American military officials said here today.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the alliance commander in Korea, said the capabilities already in South Korea are enough to defend against a strike from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator.
Both men told reporters at the headquarters for Combined Forces Command that U.S. and South Korean officials will continue to examine the threats from North Korea and make adjustments to the force as they are needed and agreed upon.
The men spoke after meetings with senior Korean leaders, including President Moon Jae-in, Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Korean Defense Chief Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin. “The message today was the ironclad commitment to the alliance,” Dunford said at the press conference.
The U.S. and South Korea each want a peaceful solution, he said. “What I would like to see is Kim Jong Un to commit to ceasing the development of nuclear weapons and ceasing the testing of ballistic missiles,” Dunford said.
The chairman said the men shared some thoughts about the common challenges facing their nations, but focused mostly on North Korea. He said he also spoke to Korean leaders about his trip to China, “and the messages we would be delivering when we met with our Chinese counterparts.”
The meeting follows passage of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that imposed severe sanctions on North Korea for its continued efforts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The world is uniting against the North Korean threat, and even China — North Korea’s only ally — voted for the resolution. China announced today that it would implement an import ban tomorrow on North Korean iron ore, lead and coal as part of the sanctions.
In response to questions about the U.S. response if North Korea were to launch missiles against Guam, Dunford asked reporters to not confuse military action with policy. “What we would do in the event of an attack on Guam — or missiles being launched towards Guam — is a decision that will … be made by the president of the United States and he will make that in the context of our alliance,” the chairman said. “Our job — General Brooks and I — is to make sure our leadership has options available to them to properly respond.
U.S. and South Korean Marines exit from a South Korean amphibious assault vehicle.
U.S. and South Korean Marines exit from a South Korean amphibious assault vehicle during Korean Marine Exchange Program 17-14 at the North West Islands, South Korea, Aug. 9, 2017. The program enables U.S. and South Korean and U.S. Marines to focus on exchanging tactics and procedures and increasing interoperability. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson
The men have two priorities, he explained. The first is to defend against an attack and the second is to ensure the alliance has a decisive response in the event of an attack.
But discussions of a preemptive attack are premature, to say the least, Dunford said. The United States is fully committed to the current policy of applying diplomatic and economic pressure to address North Korea’s malign intentions. “The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort,” he said. “We are seeking peaceful resolution to the crisis right now.”
The chairman stressed that all the decisions being made now and all the discussions the United States is having are in the context of the alliance. “We listen very carefully to Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric and we can’t afford to be complacent. … We have to take it seriously in regards to our defensive measures, and with regard to the development of military options in the event we are called upon to do that,” Dunford said.
He added that any changes to the U.S. posture in the region will be made in consultation with the Japanese government — who are also under threat from North Korea.
Brooks said the alliance is strong and is prepared to face the threat from North Korea. There are 28,500 U.S. service members on the peninsula and that number fluctuates from time to time due to exercises and new capabilities. But not enough has been said about the South Korean military and its contributions, the general said. “There are 660,000 South Koreans who are on active duty at any given time in defense of South Korea, and we are their partner, their ally,” he said. “We don’t defend by ourselves and we don’t defend ourselves. We defend one another in an integrated way.
The Combined Forces Command is truly a combined command, Brooks said — U.S. and South Korean forces are integrated in a manner not seen anywhere else in the world. “So I hear the voices not just of the Americans who are here, but the voices of the South Koreans,” he said. “[Troops from both nations] tell me that they want to be ready. They want to make sure they can do all they can to be prepared. They want to know if they have reason to be concerned, and in the meantime we tell them to continue their mission, and they do it very, very well every single day.”
Brooks noted the role played by the combined exercises in which the United States and South Korean forces take part. The annual exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian begins next week and, he said, as a matter of course it draws condemnation from North Korea. “This is why our exercises are so important — we have to have a credible deterrent,” the general said. “This is why we have military capability that undergirds our diplomatic activities. These threats are serious to us, and thus we have to be prepared.”
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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva
Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.
Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review
Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.
Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.
Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.
Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.
Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”
Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”
According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.
Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”
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