U.S. Air Force 'Ready to Strike' if Korean Tensions Escalate

The U.S. Air Force is ready to respond immediately if hostilities between the two Koreas escalate, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Wednesday. Schwartz told reporters after North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, "The bottom line is that U.S. Forces Korea certainly is monitoring the situation carefully."

He mentioned Osan and Gunsan in South Korea, Kaneda in Okinawa, Japan, and other U.S. Air Force bases in the Pacific to emphasize that the U.S. has plenty of firepower in the region. Schwartz added USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp "has operational control of Air Force assets that reside on the peninsula and can be augmented if required."

On the issue of a possible return of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, Schwartz said the issue has not been discussed by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, but added he would advise Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen to the best of his ability. "The bottom line is, we have substantial capability on the peninsula and in the immediate environments to sustain a very credible deterrent posture," he said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 26, 2010 12:34 KST