Articles

This is why the Pentagon just dispatched its top general to Korea

The top US general is on the Korean Peninsula as annual US and South Korean military exercises risk further increasing tensions with North Korea.


US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said his visit to the region this week is aimed at reassuring allies South Korea and Japan, while building the military-to-military relationship with China in order to prevent miscalculations.

He met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo August 14 in Seoul, and travels to China August 14 and Japan later in the week.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated in a Wall Street Journal opinion article posted late August 13 that the US goal is the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that it is up to North Korea to show its willingness to engage in good-faith negotiations.

Mattis (left) and Tillerson (right). DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

"North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity, and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty, and isolation," Mattis and Tillerson said. They also highlighted a need for China to use its "decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea."

Meanwhile, senior US national security officials said August 13 a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent, but the possibility of war has increased.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday North Korea's push to develop a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, "... is a very serious threat and the administration is going to treat it as such."

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, on ABC's This Week program said "...We are not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago.''

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Dunford said the military's "primary focus" is supporting the administration's diplomatic and economic campaign to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, while preparing military options in the event that campaign fails.

"We're all looking to get out of this situation without a war," Dunford said, even as he stressed Pyongyang possessing nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and its regional allies is "unacceptable."

"As a military leader, I've got to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails," he added.

But some experts do not agree that Pyongyang's acquisition of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable option. Richard Bush, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center, said the Trump administration has "made a big mistake" by determining that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States is something to fight over.

"The bigger danger or focus should be ensuring that North Korea doesn't use those capabilities," Bush told VOA.

Dunford arrived at Osan Air Base plans to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In and his South Korean military counterpart on Monday before traveling to China and Japan later in the week.

President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New military exercises to start

Annual exercises between the US and South Korean militaries, dubbed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, begin later this month. North Korea has always condemned these exercises, and some experts fear these war games could increase hostilities from Pyongyang while irking Beijing, a key influencer of North Korea.

"If you have the current tensions and pile on top of that these exercises, it's going to make for a much worse situation," Joel Wit, who helped negotiate the 1994 US-North Korea nuclear deal that delayed North Korea's nuclear program for almost a decade, told VOA.

A senior official with US Pacific Command, which overseas military activity in the region, said China will almost certainly propose to Dunford that the US and South Korea stop these exercises. However, the Trump administration would not agree to that proposal because it considers the exercises necessary for readiness in the event of an attack, the official added.

In the past, China has been reluctant to deny resources to North Korea in order to pressure Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions. But in the last few weeks, China has appeared to take measures to keep its bad-behaving neighbor in check.

A Trident II ICBM launching. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, China voted alongside a unanimous UN Security Council to impose strict new sanctions on Pyongyang in response to North Korea's launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. Estimates say the new sanctions could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.

And on July 11, China's Global Times Newspaper warned that China will not come to North Korea's aid if it launches missiles threatening American soil and would only intervene if the United States strikes North Korea first.

Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst at RAND Corporation, noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping has held eight summit meetings with the South Korean president but none with the young North Korean leader, which he said "clearly suggests" that Xi "thinks Kim Jong Un is a lightweight and really not important."

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

'Locked and loaded'

The chairman's visit comes just two days after US President Donald Trump warned in a tweet that military solutions were "locked and loaded" should North Korea act unwisely. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path," Trump tweeted.

North Korean state media announced the country is drawing up plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam, as the US military continued preparations for a potential military response.

The United States has carried our several B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet flights from Guam to the peninsula, with the last one carried out about a week ago. Japanese and South Korean jets have escorted the bombers at times.

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

The United States also has deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea that can shoot down short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Two of the system's six launchers are fully operational, and President Moon has ordered consultations on the possibility of deploying the final four interceptors, which are already in-country. THAAD's ability to take out missile threats has proven 15 for 15 in tests conducted since 2005, when the system began operational testing.

THAAD is also deployed on Guam, along with Aegis ships that have Standard Missile 3 interceptors used to destroy medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The US mainland is defended from intercontinental ballistic missiles by ground-based interceptors located at Fort Greely, Alaska.

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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