May 30, 2012 08:30
U.S. military officials are rejecting a report that U.S. military commandos have been parachuting into North Korea to gather intelligence on Pyongyang's underground military installations.
The Tokyo-based political journal The Diplomat carried a report on Monday alleging that a senior U.S. special operations commander revealed the purported commando program at a conference in Florida last week.
U.S. Defense Department press secretary George Little told reporters Tuesday that the report misquoted Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley.
"My understanding is that the general's comments were contorted, distorted, misreported, and that, you know, there is in no way any substance to the assertion. Again, that was misreported that there are U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea. That is simply incorrect."
Little said the United States works closely and on a daily basis with its allies in the region to develop information on North Korean intentions and capabilities.
Colonel Jonathan Withington, a spokesperson for the United States Forces Korea, said Tuesday that "great liberal license" was made with Tolley's comments, and that some of the quotes were "made up and attributed to him."
The Diplomat quoted Tolley as saying that U.S. and South Korean commandos were taking part in the reconnaissance mission, which it said is aimed at uncovering information on "thousands of tunnels" built by Pyongyang since the Korean War.
Withington said it is well-known that North Korea uses tunnels to hide its sensitive military operations. But he said "at no time" have U.S. or South Korean forces parachuted into North Korea to conduct special reconnaissance.
The author of the report in The Diplomat, David Axe, rejected suggestions that he fabricated the quotes attributed to the general. He said that if the general was speaking hypothetically, "he did not say so" and that "he spoke in the present tense" and "at length."
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