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Retired U.S. General Sharp urges S. Korea, U.S. to lead N. Korea to freedom

All Headlines 11:36 February 22, 2012

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States should take concrete steps to bring freedom to the people of North Korea, a retired U.S. Army commander said, offering a new approach to the communist nation undergoing a leadership change.

"It is vital that South Korea and the U.S. reexamine our goals and objectives for North Korea and determine actions required to attain these goals," retired Gen. Walter Sharp said Tuesday (local time) in a contribution posted on the Web site of Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Sharp served as commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea for three years before ending his military service in 2011. He now works as a senior adviser at Monitor National Security, a California-based defense strategy consulting firm.

"I believe that the main focus of this new strategy should start with a clear objective of a free North Korea," Sharp said.

"Ultimately, the United States and Republic of Korea must recognize the North Korean regime will not change on its own and that we must help force and support the change that is needed," he added, referring to South Korea by its official name.

The former commander stressed that freedom will be best achieved from within, through concerted efforts by South Korea and the U.S. to break information barriers and expose the North Korean people to the outside world.

"The iron grip which is maintained over information mandates that this change must be precipitated by direct actions intent on educating the masses and creating a desire for true freedom and human rights," Sharp said.

Education must be focused on the young and middle-aged population as well as the military, who are the most likely to influence change, while information can be spread through conditioned aid donations, more propaganda leaflets from the South, increased distribution of media, among other ways, he said.

Such initiatives will need the awareness and support of the international community through wider media coverage of North Korea's atrocities, including the regime's holding of more than 200,000 people in labor camps, he noted.

"How to deal with North Korea should be a key presidential campaign issue for both the U.S. and (South Korea)," Sharp pointed out. "The situation in North Korea ultimately affects the entire globe and cannot be put on the backburner any longer."

The allies are each set to hold presidential elections later this year.

At the global level, pressure for freedom can also be exerted from outside if international organizations such as the United Nations take stronger action against North Korean provocations and human rights violations, Sharp said.

"If we are not willing to say that we want a free North Korea and initiate actions to educate and support the people of North Korea, the North Korean people will never have the strength or tools to force a real change. It is up to our countries to lead the path towards a free North Korea and the time is now."

hague@yna.co.kr
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