Burwell Bell, a former commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, predicted Thursday that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test in the near future, stressing that the allies should remain ready to handle the threat.
Speaking at a forum in Seoul, Bell also said Pyongyang should first apologize to Seoul for its two lethal provocations in 2010 before any inter-Korean talks resume, noting there has been “no remorse” for the attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.
|Burwell Bell, a former commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, speaks at a forum in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap News)|
“If Kim Jong-un conducts a nuclear test, as I predict he will, this means we are in for a long time of required sanctions, of continued work with the Chinese to help resist the North Korean development of nuclear weapons,” he said at the forum hosted by the state-run Korea Foundation.
“And it (also) means the U.S. must prepare to defeat any type of nuclear aggression by North Korea. And we (the allies) have to make certain we are ready for that.”
The remarks by the former CFC commander who served here from 2006-2008 came as the North toughened its rhetoric against Washington, saying its future rocket and nuclear tests may directly target the U.S.
Touching on South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye’s offer for inter-Korean dialogue, Bell said the North should “seize the opportune moment.”
However, he criticized the North for continuing to use provocative military methodology, which undermines efforts for reconciliation, peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
“To date, there has been no remorse or apology by the North (for its 2010 provocations) in any way,” he said.
“They clearly are continuing their provocative methodology not only with the missile launch, not only with the procurement of mobile missile launchers which suggest they are trying to develop ICMB mobile capability. They are also clearly preparing for a nuclear test. This is not the way to communicate that they are interested in talks.”
Regarding the upcoming negotiations between Seoul and Washington over the so-called burden-sharing cost for the upkeep of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he cautioned against the issue escalating into an emotional, political one that would hurt the alliance.
“Five years ago, the political environment between our two countries was stressed. As a result, all negotiations ― it doesn’t matter whether it was a free trade agreement, burden sharing or an environmental issue ― all issues were elevated quickly to a political level, making it very difficult for all of us to negotiate in good faith,” he said.
“However, even in that difficult environment, we reached a resolution that was fair and equitable, in my view, to both nations. We need to be very thoughtful about the bigger issues of peace, stability and security in Northeast Asia, the epicenter of which is the ROK.”
Washington has reportedly asked Seoul to increase the share of the cost for maintaining some 28,500 U.S. troops here to 50 percent from the current 42 percent. The current agreement over Seoul’s contribution to the Special Measurement Agreement fund is to remain effective until 2013. For the burden-sharing for 2014, a new round of bilateral talks will commence.
During his lecture at the forum, he also emphasized the importance of cybersecurity.
“The issue is for our commerce. How do we defend Apple Company from cyberattacks? What about Samsung? What is Samsung’s responsibility to defend itself? What is the Minister of Defense’s responsibility to defend Samsung? These are wonderful questions to ask in a new era,” he said.
“Cyberattacks can be more lethal to a nation than a nuclear attack. While they might not destroy infrastructure, it can destroy an economy. When you destroy an economy, people can be hurt even more than they can in a kinetic war. So this has got to be a vital national interest area for the U.S. and its allies.”
During the forum, Bell also introduced his recent involvement in mapping out a new U.S. defense strategy, which has already been presented to top Washington officials. The strategy has been published by the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center and sponsored by the Peterson Foundation based in New York.
In the document, which Bell says is highly likely to be incorporated into the U.S. defense policy, possible nuclear missile attacks from North Korea and Iran are among the greatest challenges that threaten vital U.S. interests.
Repeating that the U.S. is fully committed to the defense of the South, Bell also highlighted that the document says, “The most salient threat (today) is posed by North Korea to South Korea.”
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com