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SEOUL — The allied forces in South Korea could defeat any North Korean aggression and will maintain that capacity, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday during an interview in Seoul.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, in Seoul for the U.S. Forces Korea change-of-command ceremony, also discussed changes to the U.S.-South Korean alliance and the future with China.

He said preparation is the key to the North Korean threat.

“Well, I think you need to just look at their capacities and their capabilities and be prepared to counter them and overwhelm them,” Pace said shortly after Gen. B.B. Bell assumed command of USFK, the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command from Gen. Leon LaPorte.

“About 70 percent of North Korea’s ground combat capability is relatively close to the DMZ (demilitarized zone),” he said, “so you need to take that into account. … Not that you expect that they will attack but ‘What would we do about it if they do attack?’”

He said the military perspective of a threat includes not only “capacity and capability,” but also a potential enemy’s intent.

“And, of course, understanding the intent of the North Koreans is very difficult. So not knowing what their intent is, you need to be prepared to counter if their intent is ill,” he said.

“We are fully capable today of defeating any North Korean aggression and we will maintain that capacity,” he said.

Pace said the continuing transformation of the alliance will help “ensure that we are prepared in the eventuality that somebody up North miscalculates and decides to become aggressive again.”

Changes to the alliance that have occurred help the United States and South Korea find the right balance with their capabilities, Pace said.

“Gen. Bell now will have a chance to come in, sit back and discuss with his ROK counterparts where they together want to go,” he said.

When asked about China, Pace expressed optimism.

As America and China become more dependent on each other for economic prosperity, Pace said, any probability of military confrontation is significantly lessened.

“Having said that,” he added, “part of the responsibility of the United States military is not to pick out who you might have to fight in the future, but to understand the kinds of capabilities that potential adversaries could have and position ourselves in a way that we are prepared to respond.

“You don’t focus on countries, you focus on potential capabilities that you’ll need, then build to that.”


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