The top commander of US forces in South Korea is seeking more attack helicopters, intelligence aircraft, and a strengthened missile defense system as part of what he says is an effort to enhance “war-fighting capabilities.”
General James Thurman said at a forum in Seoul Tuesday that he is confident the Defense Department will meet his request for increased military capacity, which comes amid heightened fears of military provocation by nuclear-armed North Korea.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang threatened attacks against several conservative media outlets in Seoul after they criticised new leader Kim Jong Un. Seoul has also recently accused Pyongyang of jamming satellite navigation signals, which affected commercial jets and ships in the South.
Thurman said it is his “number one priority” to remain ready to defend South Korea against “any North Korean provocation, whether it would be strategic, tactical,” or “asymmetric.”
There are also concerns that North Korea may attempt a third nuclear test following the embarrassing failure of a long-range missile launch in April, despite Pyongyang’s insistence that it is not preparing for such a test.
Meanwhile, US and South Korean forces held joint live-fire military exercises Tuesday in the South Korean city of Pocheon.
The US currently has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, which has for more than 60 years remained in a technical state of war with the North. The agreement that ended the 1950-’53 civil war was only a truce.