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(2nd LD) N. Korea continues to present 'extraordinary threat' to region: Pentagon official

Defense 01:22 June 19, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 6, 9-12)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's recent provocations against South Korea show that the communist country continues to present an "extraordinary" threat to the region, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.

Speaking in a teleconference, David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said the United States remains in close coordination with South Korea to ensure readiness against North Korea's threats.

"As we've been starkly reminded in recent days, North Korea continues to present an extraordinary threat to the region and which demands our continued vigilance," he said.

"It's hard to tell what's going to unfold over the next few days and weeks," he added. "But I do think that it's important to say that we remain vigilant against any types of threats and provocations."

North Korea has threatened to take military action against the South over the latter's failure to stop defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the North by balloon. Earlier this week, the North blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong.

This EPA file photo shows Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey. (Yonhap)

This EPA file photo shows Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey. (Yonhap)

Asked about resuming large-scale South Korea-U.S. military exercises and bringing strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula, Helvey said he would not get ahead of any future decisions.

"But this is one of the things that we are constantly talking to our South Korean allies about to ensure that we as an alliance are presenting the most effective combined deterrence and defense capability for the people in South Korea, and quite frankly, it's something that helps to preserve our interests and preserve peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

Helvey added that North Korea's recent rhetoric and actions have "done nothing to dissuade" the U.S. from the goal of achieving final, fully verified denuclearization in the North.

The Pentagon continues to support diplomatic efforts to achieve that goal by maintaining a credible and capable military force, as well as by working with allies and partners to enforce United Nations sanctions on the North, he said.

On speculation that President Donald Trump may pull U.S. troops out of South Korea if defense-cost sharing negotiations go awry, Helvey dodged a direct answer.

"I will just say that we routinely, indeed we continuously, are looking at our global force posture to make sure that our forces are where we need them, based on the threats that we see and our alliance obligations," he said.

"I don't want to hypothesize about any potential future decisions," he added. "I would just say that we're constantly looking at our force posture to make sure that it makes sense, consistent with our strategy, the security environments and our alliance obligations."


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