U.S. remains committed to denuclearization of 'entire' Korean Peninsula: Pentagon spokesman
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- The United States remains committed to the denuclearization of the "entire" Korean Peninsula, a defense department spokesperson said Thursday, indicating that the U.S. is not considering deploying nuclear weapons to South Korea.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder also reiterated that the U.S. extended deterrence provided to South Korea would be sufficient to defend the Asian ally and deter any potential aggression from North Korea.
"We are still committed to denuclearization of the entire peninsula," the spokesman said when asked if the U.S. was considering making South Korea a nuclear state.
"Here in the Pentagon our focus is on providing a strategic deterrent capability to the Republic of Korea and to our allies and partners in the region," he added, referring to South Korea by its official name.
The remark comes amid calls for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea following a recent series of North Korean missile launches.
Pyongyang has fired 44 ballistic missiles this year, a senior U.S. administration official said earlier in the day, the largest number of ballistic missiles it launched in a single year.
North Korea also fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan this month, the first missile to do so since 2017.
Ryder insisted the U.S. is already providing the security assistance that South Korea requires.
"We have a significant U.S. force presence on the peninsula," the spokesman said, referring to the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea.
"The United States, the Republic of Korea and other allies and partners in the region to include Japan conduct regular exercises to ensure that our forces have interoperability, that we can work together with the idea to defend one another's interests and our territorial integrity, as well as deter a potential attack," he added.
He earlier said South Korea is already backed by the "full range" of U.S. defense capabilities, including "nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities" when asked the same question.
U.S. and South Korean officials have said the North may soon conduct a nuclear test, following the resumption of ballistic missile tests after a four-year hiatus.
"We continue to believe that North Korea is preparing for potential future nuclear test," said Ryder, adding the U.S. and its allies in the region are keeping a "close eye" on the reclusive country.
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.
The Pentagon spokesman underscored U.S. capabilities to counter any potential North Korean aggression, also noting a group of U.S. bombers are currently in Guam, sending a "very clear message" to North Korea.
"So it's not uncommon for us to have bomber task forces, which conduct operations around the world again for two reasons; one to send a very clear message that we will support our partners and allies around the world, and two that we do have the capability to conduct global operations on any given day," he said when asked about the bombers.
"So to answer your question, it is meant to send a message that the United States stands closely with its allies and partners to deter potential provocation," added Ryder.
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