December 28, 2017 11:11
Former chiefs of the U.S. Forces Korea have urged caution over President Moon Jae-in's proposal to postpone joint military drills until after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
They said the suggestion is "legitimate" but warned that Seoul must not "abrogate the security treaty" and use military readiness as "a bargaining chip," Voice of America reported Tuesday.
"The whole issue of postponing the military drills... I believe, is a legitimate issue and a sound issue," Gen. Burwell Bell, the USFK commander from 2006 to 2008, told VOA.
"But it is crucial that those exercises be conducted to their full range of requirements immediately following the Olympics."
"They could be postponed for very short period of time so as to accommodate the conducts of the Olympics," but "any notion by anyone that exercises should be postponed to achieve some kind of diplomatic engagement is wrong," he said.
He added he himself would not have allowed a postponement to be used as a diplomatic carrot.
"If either party ever told me when I was in command to lower the readiness of the force, so as to appease the North, my immediate recommendation to both presidents, particularly to the president of the United States, would be because of the increased risk to failure, it would be necessary for the United States to withdraw its forces from South Korea and abrogate the security treaty" altogether, he added.
Gen. John Tilelli, who was USFK commander between 1996 and 1999, said postponing the drills is worth considering, but the primary duty of the leader of a country is to protect its own people.
And Gen. James Thurman, who was USFK chief between 2011 and 2013, said, "We must be careful appeasing North Korea. It has never worked, and I do not think cutting deals with them will be effective... The alliance must remain strong and vigilant."
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