U.S. commander: Kim Jong Un’s speech should be met with caution

The top U.S. military commander in South Korea said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have an ulterior motive in offering talks and reconciliation in his New Year’s speech.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a positive approach to North-South relations in his New Year’s speech. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a positive approach to North-South relations in his New Year’s speech. Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE

Gen. Vincent Brooks, who heads 28,500 U.S. troops, said Thursday the military needs to stay on alert after the conciliatory nature of Kim’s speech was received positively by many in the South, Yonhap reported.

“We can be generally pleased by the recent overtures that happened. But we must keep our expectations at the appropriate level,” the U.S. commander said.

Brooks also said North Korea’s gestures are meant to create friction among neighboring countries, according to the report.

South Korea and the United States need to maintain an “ironclad and razor sharp” alliance in preparation for any future North Korea provocations, he said.

Brooks then compared North Korea’s neighbors, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, as well as the United States, as five fingers that should work closely together, but are being challenged to stand apart from one another by Pyongyang.

U.S. military readiness is key, Brooks said, so the U.S.-South Korea leadership has many options when dealing with North Korea.

Brooks made the speech hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly agreed to delay joint drills during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.

The proposal to postpone the drills came from Moon.

U.S. military skepticism of North Korea’s overtures comes at a time when Seoul is getting ready for a meeting between the representatives for the Six-Party Talks of South Korea and China.

Newsis reported Thursday Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s representative for six-party nuclear talks, is expected to strengthen strategic communication between the two countries, and exchange views on future responses to North Korea.

By Elizabeth Shim