| U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim said Thursday that his country is strengthening readiness posture to provision against any situation in North Korea including emergencies. Regarding the possibility of an "implosion" in the North Korean regime, the U.S. envoy said that Seoul and Washington are strengthening coordination to be able to effectively respond in the event that such an incident occurs.
Kim made the remarks during an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo at his official residence in central Seoul. "It is in the same vein that the two allies agreed at a bilateral foreign ministers` meeting in Washington Tuesday to strengthen discussions on changes in the North Korean situation and broaden bilateral cooperation," he stressed.
After North Korea on Wednesday demanded that Seoul and Washington cancel their annual joint military drills scheduled to begin in late February, the envoy said that the plan "will not change and must not be changed." He noted that the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises are defensive drills aimed at securing maximum deterrence and that Pyongyang is "well aware of the nature."
Asked about moves to re-postpone the planned transfer of Washington`s wartime operational control (OPCON) over the South Korean military to Seoul scheduled for December 2015, Kim said that the U.S. would never pressure Seoul to take over the OPCON if Seoul is not ready. He added that whether Seoul is ready for a handover would be determined by the two allies together.
Commenting on the latest bilateral agreement on Seoul`s sharing of the expenses for keeping U.S. troops stationed in the South, the U.S. ambassador said that the agreed amount is "appropriate" for the stable stationing of 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.
"I hope that Korea will be reunited in my lifetime," he said. "I think that it is a desire living in the hearts of all South Koreans." He noted that Washington actively supports the reunification that South Korea wants.
Asked about the North`s recent execution of Jang Song Thaek, once powerful uncle-in-law of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the envoy said that the execution was an example that showed to the whole world how the North Korean regime is "ruthless" and ignores human rights, adding he believes the purge was Kim`s decision.
Although he did not directly answer a question about a recent New York Times article that compared a Korean history textbook and Japan`s history distortion in the same vein, Kim said, "I feel pain as a Korean-American. I hope that Japan will take necessary measures."