The Korea Herald


Peninsular conflict would have greater regional impacts: U.S. JCS chief

By 송상호

Published : Dec. 15, 2015 - 18:06

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The top U.S. general on Monday voiced concerns about the potential “transregional” ramifications of North Korea’s military threats that have evolved with its development of ballistic missiles and capabilities in the cyber and space realms. 
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 1. (AP-Yonhap) Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 1. (AP-Yonhap)

Speaking at a defense forum, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford stressed that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula would not be limited to the peninsula, apparently in tacit emphasis on the need to strengthen multilateral security cooperation to deter the North.

“If you would have thought about the Korean Peninsula some years ago, you would have thought about a conflict that we would have hoped to isolate on the Korean Peninsula. And then as the North Koreans developed ballistic missile capability, well, obviously that’s started to affect other regional actors such as Japan,” the general said.

“As you start to look at intercontinental ballistic technology, cyber capabilities, space capabilities, information operations and so forth, it’s pretty hard to see how even a regional conflict would actually be anything other than transregional, multidomain and multifunctional,” he added.

Pyongyang has been diversifying its weapons systems in multiple domains, including cyberspace and space, as witnessed in its recent testing of new weapons systems and saber-rattling moves.

Through repetitive tests, the communist regime has been seeking to enhance its capabilities of a wide range of ballistic missiles that can strike not only South Korea, but also Japan, Guam, Hawaii and parts of the U.S. mainland.

It has also been working on developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can form the basis for its “second-strike” capability, which would enable it to survive a preemptive nuclear strike. 

The North has also pushed to develop space capabilities by launching what it claims to be a satellite. Its cyberwarfare capabilities are known to be formidable, with systematic training and education and thought-out tactics that could have more devastating effects than those of physical attacks, analysts said.

During the forum, Dunford also pointed out that he believes the U.S. planning or organizational construct in our command and control “is not really optimized” for what would be a multifaceted fight against the North.

He did not elaborate further on this. Some observers said his remarks appear to note the trilateral security cooperation among the U.S., South Korea and Japan, which has been lackluster due to historical animosities between the U.S.’ two Asian allies.

“It is difficult to confirm what Gen. Dunford meant exactly, but one possibility is that from the U.S.’ military’s standpoint, it is a source of frustration that it cannot secure a maximum or optimized level of military collaboration among the U.S., South Korea and Japan, due to a lack of cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo,” said Nam Chang-hee, security expert at Inha University.

“The U.S. believes that ensuring the use of maximum capabilities from the trilateral cooperation is crucial in handling diversified scenarios of North Korean provocations, particularly when the North is seeking to develop cross-domain warfare capabilities that also involve cyberwarfare and electromagnetic capabilities.”

To better cope with threats from an increasingly assertive China and a nuclearizing North Korea, the U.S. and Japan have been strengthening security cooperation by upgrading their security cooperation guidelines and loosening Japan’s self-imposed stricture on the use of its force.

The U.S. has also welcomed Japan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense and the use of force to support its ally under attack. But South Korea has taken a cautious stance over Japan’s pursuit of a greater security role with its historical resentment toward their onetime colonizer.

By Song Sang-ho  (