- WASHINGTON -- North Korea continues to strengthen its military and has
deployed most of its troops near the border to prepare for a war against
South Korea, the U.S. military chief of staff says.
- In a statement to the Senate Appropriations
subcommittee on defense on Tuesday, General Henry Shelton, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pyongyang has deployed the majority of
its more than 1 million North Korean soldiers near the demilitarized zone
and Seoul. He said the tensions from this deployment has been exacerbated
by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile program.
- "Despite its collapsed economy and
struggle to feed its own population," Shelton said, "the North
Korean government continues to pour resources into its military and to
pursue a policy of confrontation with South Korea and its neighbors in
the region."More than one million North Korean soldiers serve on active
duty, the vast majority deployed within hours of the DMZ and South Korea's
capital city, Seoul."
- Shelton said the United States must take
the North Korean threat very seriously. He said the Pentagon has deployed
advanced tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery, attack helicopters
and aircraft in Korea.
- The chief of staff said the United States
has also deployed the Patriot missile defense systems, improved surveillance
capabilities and upgraded prepositioned stocks.
- "These actions have significantly
improved our defensive posture," Shelton said. "Still, the threat
remains, and North Korea's substantial chemical and biological weapons
capability, coupled with its continued pursuit of ballistic missile technology,
will demand our attention for the foreseeable future."
- The chief of staff was cautious in plans
to develop a national missile defense system [NMD]. Shelton, referring
to the repeated failures of a missile system being currently developed,
indicated that it was too early to make a decision to supply the estimated
$3.8 billion network.
- "A threat is clearly emerging; however,
the technology to hit a bullet with a bullet remains elusive," he
said.. "We will continue to press hard to develop an effective NMD
system, very mindful that the growing threat is placing a deployment decision
in clearer context."
- Shelton said the United States has also
built up prepositioned stocks of weapons and supplies in the Middle East
so U.S. forces can be deployed quickly to the Gulf region.