Thursday, March 29, 2012
U.S. to rethink N. Korea policy in case of rocket launch: Pentagon official
The Obama administration will overhaul its approach toward North Korea if it presses ahead with a multiple-stage rocket launch next month, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
James Miller, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy, made clear that the U.S. won't be able to fulfill what it agreed to do in a Feb. 29 aid-for-concession deal with North Korea.
"My view is that if North Korea goes forward with this test, we will stop this aid and stop the other steps that we had intended to take and have to have a complete reconsideration of where we go in the future," he said in a Senate confirmation hearing.
He is currently serving as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. If confirmed, he will replace Michele Flournoy, who retired in February.
After high-level talks in Beijing in February, the U.S. said it would provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the North. It was an apparent reward for Pyongyang, which pledged to suspend some of its nuclear and long-range missile activities. The two sides also reportedly agreed to a set of social and cultural exchanges, including a concert by a North Korean orchestra in the U.S.
But the North abruptly announced a plan to launch a rocket that it claims is intended to put an observation satellite into orbit. The launch would take place April 12-16, the North said.
Miller confirmed that 240,000 tons of food aid is worth US$200 million.
He pointed out North Korea's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs pose a "direct and serious threat" to U.S. regional allies and parters.
The also have the "potential to become a direct threat to U.S. territory," he said.
He stressed, however, the need for continued efforts to resolve the North Korea issue diplomatically.
"I believe the United states must work with our allies and other key partners in the region and internationally on diplomatic solutions to the range of pressing concerns we face with North Korea," he said. "Under the appropriate conditions, direct diplomatic engagement with North Korea is important as well."
In a separate congressional hearing, meanwhile, Adm. Samuel Locklear, who heads the U.S. Pacific Command, said the North's rocket move is the "most pressing security situation."
"We will have to continue to be positioned to ensure security from those type of provocative events that the North Korean regime seems to be intent on pursuing," he told the members of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Testifying next to him, Gen. James Thurman, commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, said that the launch will unequivocally violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban it from using ballistic missile technology.
He added the North's new leader, Kim Jong-un, is following the "same patterns" of behavior of his late father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, Kim Il-sung.
"I do think he is being closely shepherded by his uncle, Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek," he said. Jang, granted four-star general rank recently, serves as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission.