The 38th Parallel

December 02, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

Sixty years ago the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, supported by the Peoples Republic of China, overtook the Korean Peninsula. On September 15th, 1950 the United Nations, led by General Douglas MacArthur, landed at Inchon on the 38th parallel. This military action started the push back of the Chinese Army and the split of the Korean Peninsula in half; establishing North and South Korea.

Long simmering tensions between the two countries erupted last week as North Korea used artillery to strike Yeonpyeong Island in South Korean territory, killing four and destroying parts of a civilian city. This unilateral military strike followed a torpedo attack linked to North Korea that sank a South Korean Naval ship, Cheonan, and killed forty-six sailors nine months ago. Underpinning this inflammatory situation is North Korea’s nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and overwhelming artillery placements that could level Seoul, the capital of South Korea, located just twenty miles from the 38th parallel.

To date China, the United States and South Korea have not been successful with diplomacy, sanctions or condemnation in preventing, dissuading or deterring these belligerent and aggressive actions. They have however been successful in preventing and restraining South Korean military reaction to the loss of fifty South Korean lives and destruction of their territory over the past nine months. That success is becoming more tenuous to maintain.

North Korea is led by an aging and ill leader, Kim Jong-il. It is perceived by internal leadership as a weak country in the region; vulnerable for adversaries to exploit as the regime attempts to transition power to the leader’s son, General Kim Jong-un. Within North Korea and externally in the region, a demonstrated, aggressive show of military force hides the weakness of the regime and sends a message of strength during its period of transition.

To show commitment to South Korea and the region, the United States conducted joint military exercises with South Korea off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, ending yesterday. These exercises lasted four days and involved 7,000 personnel and the George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG) consisting of eleven ships including the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73) and three Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD) capable Destroyers (DDG 82, DDG 63, DDG 62) as well as wings of fighter aircraft and ships from South Korea. Tomorrow, the largest joint military exercises between the U.S. and Japan are being conducted in the seas between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. This further displays the regional and United States resolve for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

There is no greater show of force and resolve to its allies than a United States Carrier Strike Group in a region of instability and tensions. Restraint and assurance to South Korea is a delicate line of balance which the United States is attempting to provide on all levels. A serious and daunting challenge, as provocation is the trigger that North Korea desires to further its policy of showing force for survival.

It is with the belief in our nation’s war fighters in the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and the U.S. Korea Command (KORCOM), that the deployment of missile defense capability in South Korea, in the shape of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and its Patriot batteries and the Aegis BMD capable ships of the 7th Fleet deployed around the Korean Peninsula, continues to deter North Korean use or threat of their ballistic missiles during this time of tension. While there is a great need for more missile defense assets in the region, some satisfaction can be taken in the decisions that have been made to have a limited missile defense capability in place in and around Korea; rather than having no defense against the large ballistic missile force of North Korea. This includes South Korea’s decision to have its own Patriot Fire Units deployed.

In a state of peace today, the Korean Peninsula is on the brink of war if we cannot work in combination through a show of resolve, force, diplomacy, protection and sanctions to deescalate the current tension on the 38th parallel that was created sixty years ago.

Missile defense remains a vital part for restraint and assurance to South Korea, Japan and our allies and absolutely critical for the protection of our 35,000 armed forces stationed in South Korea.

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