South Korea’s highest-ranking general and the U.S. general in charge of U.S. forces in South Korea held an unprecedented meeting on Guam Tuesday, sending a joint message, calling for North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons and test-firing missiles.
If North Korea doesn’t listen, Gen. Sun Jin Lee, chairman of the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, the international community should be called upon to support all options, including what he called military options.
Lee’s meeting at Naval Base Guam with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, a four-star Army general and commander of the combined U.S forces in South Korea, underscored their message that U.S. forces and weapons based in Guam — temporarily or permanently — serve as an extension of America’s capabilities to deal with North Korea if the need arises.
Brooks and Lee jointly boarded the ballistic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania, which the Navy describes as having “the most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.”
Both stood at podiums and froze their handshake for the cameras, the submarine in the background.
“We seek … alternatives other than war, but it is our mission to remain ready for war if we have to,” Brooks said.
“Let’s be clear: If something were to happen, or if things … go in the direction where they’re going, Kim Jong Un and the North Korean regime must accept responsibility for anything that comes as a result, and that’s really the answer to ‘What comes next?’ It’s their decision,” Brooks said.
Before the two generals had a briefing aboard the submarine, Brooks showed Lee the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system that was initially temporarily stationed on Guam two years ago. It’s now permanently based here, following North Korean threats, including specific mention of Guam.
Brooks also showed Lee other strike and defense capabilities on Guam, including B-1B bomber aircraft, which are temporarily stationed at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base. About a dozen F-16s are scheduled to arrive on Guam this month, the Air Force had previously announced.
Talking briefly to reporters, Lee said China and Russia should be asked to help convince North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
“I want to, first of all point out that North Korea does not have the normal decision-making system that we would expect from other countries,” Lee said.
“However, this does not mean we should give up sending messages,” Lee added. “We should make North Korea listen to our messages and this might include sending messages through China and Russia, the neighbors of North Korea, so they can pass on our message to North Korea.”
“We have to make efforts to make North Korea realize that they will be in harm’s way if they do not listen to our legitimate and reasonable message,” Lee said.
Less than two weeks ago, South Korean Defense Minister Min Koo Han met with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon and discussed the North Korean threat.
The South Korean defense minister said North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have been assessed as “continuously advancing,” according to a transcript of his statement.
This year alone, North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests, according to Han.
Carter stated, according to a transcript of their Oct. 20 joint press conference, that the United States’ missile defense and other efforts "are intended to stay ahead of whatever might happen in the various North Korean missile programs.”