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Former Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces Korea Discusses Effects of North Korean Aggression

December 15, 2010

Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood, USAF (ret.), former Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces Korea, briefed JINSA members via conference call on the current, volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula on December 10, 2010. Retired in January 2009, Gen. Wood simultaneously served as Deputy Commander, United Nations Command; Commander, Air Component Command, Republic of Korea and U.S. Combined Forces Command; and Commander, 7th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Gen. Wood discussed the South Korean response to North Korea's recent artillery attacks on a South Korean island that killed two South Korean civilians and two South Korean military personnel that included an announced new self-defense policy which implies that if the South Korean government believes an attack to be imminent, it reserves the right to pre-empt. This marks a major change in Seoul's military policy toward Pyonyang. Earlier this year, in an unprovoked attack outside of North Korean waters, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean navy ship killing 46 South Korean sailors.

Gen. Wood next explained the deep ties between the two military forces united in defending South Korea from North Korean aggression including ongoing annual military exercises between the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

International reaction to North Korea's unprovoked attack has been unusually strong and China's role as an interlocutor also came under Gen. Wood's scrutiny. The implications behind newly appointed South Korean officials was explained concomitant with previously stated changes in Seoul's aggression response calculus. Gen. Wood also discussed North Korean military capabilities focusing on their desire to wage asymmetric warfare, specifically attacking perceived South Korean and U.S. forces vulnerabilities.

There is no doubt that if all-out war were to erupt, the civilian death toll in the South would be high. While South Korea is taking steps to show that there are limits to the amount and frequency of North Korean aggression it is willing to tolerate, Gen. Wood was clear that avoiding such a war was of paramount importance.

Questions dealt with international boundaries as they relate to the attacked island, the level of violence South Korean society is willing to take before the tipping point is reached and the range of weapons systems U.S. forces have at their disposal to repel North Korean aggression.

View the YouTube video for the full audio transcript.

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