The U.S. will continue to conduct military exercises such as Foal Eagle 2013 with South Korea as part of its commitment to that nation and its desire to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said April 1.
Speaking to reporters, Little emphasized the United States’ commitment to peace and stability in the region, and discussed North Korea’s recent provocations.
“The focus of our military exercises, and what we’ve been saying publicly, is all about alliance assurance,” he said.
“It’s about showing the South Koreans that we are deeply committed to our alliance with them,” Little said. “We’re committed to their defense, committed to the defense of our forces in South Korea and we’re also committed to peace and stability in the region.”
Little noted that two F-22 Raptors, as previously planned, have deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, to participate in the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise which began March 1.
“This exercise has been planned for some time and is part of the air component of the Foal Eagle exercise,” he said.
And as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s theater security package, Little said, deployments of U.S. Air Force fighters to the Pacific region have occurred since March 2004, allowing for a more “prudent deterrent capability and combat-ready forces.”
And the dispatch of F-22 Raptors to participate in this year’s Foal Eagle exercise in South Korea “strengthens the Pacific Command’s military interoperability with the Republic of Korea,” he said.
“We believe that this exercise has been extremely successful in shoring up our cooperation with our South Korean allies,” Little said, “and we’ll continue to engage with them closely.”
Little said exercises in South Korea “send an important signal, not only to South Korea, but to friends like Japan. So that is the focus of our recent efforts.”
Little said North Korea has a choice of continuing to “engage in provocations with bellicose, over-heated, irresponsible rhetoric,” or choosing a path of peace.
“We think it’s time for them to switch lanes,” he said. “We seek peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. And we think that’s in the best interests of everyone in the region.”
North Korea has recently engaged in “rhetoric and recent actions that are self-defeating and isolating for the North Koreans,” Little said.
North Korea could decide to play a constructive role in the region, but it has decided to play an unconstructive role, Little said.
“And we believe that should change,” he said.
Little said he could envision “any number of scenarios” where other countries might pursue dialogue with North Korea if they changed course.
“The regrettable fact is, at this point, they have shown a propensity toward provocation, and not toward constructive behavior or words,” he said.
North Korea needs to “come into compliance with their international obligations,” Little said, including their nuclear and missile programs.
“I can envision any number of scenarios under which, if they acted constructively and abided by their obligations, that the United States would consider, at some point, talking to them about a whole range of issues, to include nuclear issues,” he said.
Little reiterated it is the United States’ goal to preserve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula while engaging in “alliance assurance.”
“The choice is really for North Korea to make,” he said. “They can be a constructive player or they can continue to be [a] … regime that acts and speaks irresponsibly.”