U.S. deterring conflict in Indo-Pacific amid N. Korean missile provocations: U.S. commanders
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, April 18 (Yonhap) -- The United States is successfully and continuously preventing conflict with no imminent signs of war in the Indo-Pacific but North Korea's continued missile provocations, along with other threats, pose serious challenges to peace and stability in the region, the chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said Tuesday.
Adm. John Aquilino also stressed the importance of strengthening U.S. alliances to deter any future aggression from North Korea and China in a House armed services committee hearing on U.S. military posture and national security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Every day INDOPACOM works tirelessly to prevent conflict, not provoke it," Aquilino told the hearing. "War is not inevitable, and it's not imminent."
The region, however, faces a "period of increased risk," he insisted, partly due to Russia's "illegitimate, illegal invasion" of Ukraine, the "military buildup and malign behavior" of China and the "continuous missile provocations and nuclear rhetoric by the DPRK."
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
North Korea has launched nearly 100 ballistic missiles since the start of last year, while threatening to preemptively use nuclear weapons against the U.S. and South Korea in case of any contingency.
The INDOPACOM commander called for efforts to maintain a robust U.S. military posture while strengthening existing U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region to deter any aggression there.
"I say it again: Conflict in the Indo-Pacific is not inevitable, but we cannot rest on our past accomplishments to secure a peaceful future," said the admiral.
Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), highlighted the need to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
"We must never take the alliance for granted as our center of gravity in deterring the Kim regime," he said in his opening remarks before the hearing, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"The Korean War taught us that we must always be ready and forward postured with our allies to ensure continued peace and stability on the peninsula," he added.
LaCamera reassured that the joint forces of South Korea and the U.S. are "ready" should Pyongyang decide to resume hostilities against the South.
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