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Former USFK Commander Talks About Nuke Threat on Korean Peninsula Updated: 2011-06-15 00:00:00 KST

The Asan Plenum nuclear conference is currently underway in Seoul which is a gathering of leading think tanks to discuss pressing challenges related to nuclear weapons and power.

And among the 250 participants of leading nuclear experts around the world was the former commander of the US Forces Korea, Burwell Bell, who shared his assessment of the current security situation on the Korean peninsula.

And our Kim Nari, who talked with Mr. Bell joined us in the studio.
Welcome Nari.

[Interview : ] Thank you.
The three-day Asan Plenum forum under the topic 'Our Nuclear Future' began on Monday and is currently underway in Seoul.
I was at the forum on the opening day and was able to meet up with the former commander of US Forces Korea, Burwell Bell, who is visiting Seoul as a panelist for the forum.
He shared his opinions and assessment of the current security situation here including his belief that North Korea will continue its provocative acts.
Mr. Bell also said China is holding the key for achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and that only strong retaliation by South Korean and American forces can stop future North Korean attacks.
Let's take a look.

Retired US Army General Burwell Bell said China is the missing ingredient for maintaining peace on the Korean peninsula.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "The missing ingredient is China. China is missing. They are in favor of the status quo, this makes the region very volatile, great risk. And they would prefer status quo other than North Korea that is moving towards reconciliation with the South."

General Bell, who is in Seoul attending the Asan Plenum nuclear forum as a panelist said that in order for the six-party nuclear talks to succeed all the member nations, excluding North Korea, should share the common goal.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "Only when all five of the other parties have similar interest in the denuclearization of North Korea, will we be able to effectively approach the North. That leadership should come from China. And to this date, they have chosen not to behave in a way that will make a positive difference on the Korean peninsula. "

He also said he wouldn't be surprised to see further provocative acts by the North in the near future.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "They will continue to conduct provocations as far as they can, as long as they can, in hopes of achieving their aims."

And he explained that the poor economic situation the reclusive country currently faces is the main drive of the North's continuous strikes.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "The potential of military provocations in hopes of bringing South Korea, the United States and Japan and others to the diplomatic table to gain economic concession remains very serious issue, and would not surprised for me to see something along those lines in not too distant future.

Then how could we deal with the situation[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "Now the question is not will North Korea conduct another provocation because it inevitably will but how will the Republic of Korea and their best ally the United States respond militarily."

Bell, who served for two years as US Forces Korea commander before retiring in 2008, says strong retaliation is the answer.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "A strong retaliatory strike. I hope that the next time when North Korea strikes the South, that South Korea with the United States supporting them, should respond and retaliate for the previous strikes that have happened, recently the Cheonan and the island."

And he said there is no doubt that the combined forces of South Korea and the United States can defeat the North.

[Interview : US Army Gen. Burwell Bell
Former USFK commander] "Between ground forces and American naval and air forces partnered with Korean air and naval forces, this is a overwhelming force. The question is, can that formation stop a North Korean attack, punish the North Koreans, and set the conditions as appropriate for offensive operation. The answer is, you bet it can."

I am sure based on his experience as the commander of US Forces here that he is well aware of the current security situation on the peninsula, but it is certainly not comforting to hear that we can expect another attack by North Korea in the near future.

[Reporter : ] Right.
I don't want to say we are 'immune' to North Korea's possible threats as we have been exposed to this volatile situation for over six decades, but unfortunately it is true that we are living in an environment threatened by North Korea at any time.
But as Mr. Bell said it is not the time to think about whether the North will strike again, and if it does, when it might happen but rather, how can we stop this ongoing volatile situation from expanding.
And as you heard he recommends that strong retaliation is the only way.

Switching to the Asan Plenum tell us more about this conference.

[Reporter : ] Well, this year's Asan Plenum nuclear forum focuses on five major themes: nonproliferation, disarmament, peaceful use, nuclear security, and deterrence.
And with Seoul set to host the second Nuclear Security Summit next year, the recent nuclear crisis in Japan, as well as North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons the conference will play an important role in setting the global agenda on nuclear issues.

Thank you Nari for that report.

[Reporter : ] My pleasure.
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