Filed under: Politics | Tags: Asia, China, Kim Jong-il, News, North Korea, Politics, South Korea, Washington DC
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today to talk about the current security situation in Korea, as well as to discuss recent events such as the North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship via torpedo attack. Senator Levin’s opening remarks describe North Korea as continuing to attempt to build ballistic missiles and maintain an expensive military while its people starve. Additionally, North Korea has tried, on multiple occasions, to sell and export arms illegally to Iran.
North Korea’s current nuclear capabilities are unclear at best, but they have reported a successful test of a nuclear munition, as well as boasting improved ballistic capabilities. Their ability to deliver a nuclear weapon by missile or otherwise is unlikely at present, but could become a large threat in the near future.
According to testimony, the Korean-Japanese-American Alliance’s top priority in East Asia is to deter and defend while striving for peace. China, who states the same wish for East Asia, has been “out of step with this global security issue” according to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee’s minority leader.
McCain went on to say that China has been an obstacle in the way of our dealings with North Korea and to simply ‘step up our language’ is not enough, and is purely bureaucratic rhetoric.
The recent attack by North Korea on the Republic of Korea’s ship Cheonan could be considered an act of war according to Secretary Gregson. However, he maintains that a decision on how to respond remains an alliance decision, and is primarily up to the president of Korea.
Senator Levin (D-Mich.) made it a point to mention that calling this act a provocation is too mild. Instead, he argues, “it was an attack, a premeditated attack on a ship that killed 46 sailors.”
Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee commented that the U.S. needed to take a harsher stance towards China and do more than just ‘step up the language.’
General Sharp described North Korea’s current ability to fire on Seoul, South Korea with 200 long-range artillery systems without having to move the systems or ammunition. This creates an important need for a constant state of readiness. When asked by Senator Levin (D-Mich.) the status of this need, General Sharp replied that “we’re in a high state of readiness” with combined forces ready to respond to a North Korean attack under U.S. control.
To Senator McCain’s (R-Ariz.) question about Kim Jong-il’s successor, Secretary Campbell replied “Your guess is as good as ours!”
McCain quickly replied, seemingly angry at the lack of seriousness in Campbell’s answer, “well that’s an interesting comment on our intelligence capability in North Korea.”
Campbell later explained, after Senator McCain had left the hearing to vote on the Small Business Lending Fund Program, that he meant that it is only speculation at this point about who will succeed Kim Jong-il because the situation in Korea is so fragile. He also described Korea as “the hardest target we face in the global [intelligence] arena.”
The hard-line stance taken by both Democrats and Republicans during the hearing is reassuring. While the region grows increasingly unstable, it seems as though congress is ready to get tough on North Korea and China.
- U.S. Officials: Alleged North Korea Attack Was An ‘Act Of War’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- U.S. lacks intel on North Korea, including succession (reuters.com)