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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Two senior U.S. generals in South Korea issued unvarnished warnings Monday that if North Korea attacked South Korea it would trigger military consequences that would include “devastating” air attacks.

“We are locked, we are cocked, and we are ready to respond 24 hours a day,” U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell said during a military ceremony at Osan Air Base Monday morning.

Bell’s comments renewed the warning he sounded at an Oct. 30 news conference in Seoul, in which he cautioned North Korea to take “long and deliberate thought” before pursuing its nuclear ambitions or any aggressive acts towards South Korea.

North Korea on Oct. 9 tested a nuclear device, sending diplomatic shock waves throughout Asia and the world.

Bell’s latest remarks, along with those of Air Force Lt. Gen. Garry R. Trexler, came during a ceremony in which Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood replaced Trexler as the peninsula’s top U.S. Air Force commander. Trexler is retiring after 36 years in the Air Force.

In the nine-minute speech, Bell said the South Korean-U.S. military alliance is ready to deal “devastating” warfare in response to any North Korean attack on South Korea.

“We are ready today to respond to North Korean aggression” in ways that would include “devastating” air attacks, Bell told an audience of several hundred U.S. and South Korean servicemembers and civil dignitaries.

Later, during his farewell remarks, Trexler echoed the cautionary theme.

“Kim Jong Il’s dysfunctional regime … continues to act irrationally,” Trexler said in a reference to North Korea’s leader.

But thanks to the combined efforts of the South Korea-U.S. military alliance, he said, “attacking South Korea is futile.”

In the event of war with North Korea, Bell would command U.S. and South Korean forces under the current bilateral agreement. Wood would be in charge of the air campaign.


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