Storm Clouds Gather Over Korean Peninsula, US Troop are Ready
“Storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Friday. Telling soldiers that the US military must do its part by being ready for war.
Without forecasting a conflict, Sec. Mattis emphasized that diplomacy stands the best chance of preventing a war if America’s words are backed up by strong and prepared armed forces.
“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Sec. Mattis told several dozen soldiers and airmen at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a 2-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.
Sec. Mattis’ comments came as the UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling nations to sharply reduce their sales of Crude Oil to the reclusive country and send home all NKorean expatriate workers within 2 years. Such workers are seen as a key source of revenue for NKorean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.
President Donald Trump and other top US officials have made repeated threats about US military action.
Some officials have described the messaging as twofold in purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear arsenal, and to motivate key regional powers China and Russia to put more pressure on Pyongyang so a war is averted.
For the US military, the focus has been on ensuring soldiers are ready should the call come.
The US has nearly 28,000 troops permanently stationed in SKorea, but if war came, many thousands more would be needed for a wide range of missions, including ground combat.
NKorea seemed uppermost on troops’ minds as they and their families wonder whether war looms.
Asked about recent reports that families of US service members in SKorea might be evacuated, Sec. Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy could still avert a crisis. He said there is no plan now for an evacuation.
Sec. Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupting the Winter Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.
“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to take on the whole world by killing their athletes,” he said.
Sec. Mattis stressed that there is still time to work out a peaceful solution, saying diplomacy is “going positively.”
Have a Happy Christmas Holiday Weekend.
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