U.S. military commanders hold rare press conference in S.Korea on DPRK issues

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-22 17:35:24|Editor: Yurou
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SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Top commanding generals of the United States on Tuesday held a rare press conference in South Korea to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the defense of its ally, South Korea, against nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Adm. Harry Harris, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, held the press conference at the Osan Air Base outside Seoul along with visiting commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The top-level U.S. military leaders arrived in South Korea ahead of the annual South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, codenamed Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) that kicked off Monday. The computerized command post exercise will last until next Thursday.

Harris, who oversees the U.S. armed forces covering the Asia-Pacific region, said the U.S. is always ready to defend the region, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to its allies including South Korea and Japan.

He said it would be important to work for "diplomatic solutions to the challenge presented by (top DPRK leader) Kim Jong Un," according to local media reports.

The commander said a strong diplomatic effort should be backed by a strong military effort, adding that combat power should be used to support diplomacy.

It was very unusual for top-level U.S. military generals serving abroad to gather in South Korea for public statements on the DPRK issue.

The generals would observe the ongoing South Korea-U.S. war game, which is the first large-scale military exercise between the two allies following the DPRK's tests in July of what it called an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The rare gathering may be aimed at sending a warning message to Pyongyang as tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula following the DPRK's ICBM tests and the subsequent war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

The Pacific Command is in charge of sending U.S. reinforcements in time of armed conflict on the peninsula, while the Strategic Command controls U.S. strategic assets such as nuclear-capable bombers and land-based ICBMs.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency manages missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), part of which has been deployed to the southeastern region of South Korea.

The ongoing UFG simulation exercise is the first South Korea-U.S. war game since two mobile launchers and other THAAD elements were transported in April to a former golf course in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.

The presence of Greaves who leads the U.S. missile defense systems indicated the THAAD's inclusion in this year's UFG simulation exercise.

Hyten, who oversees the Strategic Command, told the press conference that his command would provide the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) with "all strategic capabilities" to deter any DPRK provocation, according to local media reports.

He noted that all options, including missile defense systems, are under consideration.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, USFK commander, said all options would be made possible through military exercises, stressing that it would be important to prepare as many options as possible through military drills.

The U.S. generals moved to the THAAD site by helicopter after finishing the press conference, local media outlets said.