Gen. “Skip” Sharp looks across the demilitarized zone daily in his job as top commander of UN forces in Korea.
Here’s his take on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. “He is in charge,” Sharp told a group of defense writers in Washington on Tuesday. Although he has some paralysis in one arm and has lost weight, he’s out in public frequently. Kim Jong-Il appears to be in decent health, and better off than last year. In Sharp’s view, North Korea’s recent actions both bad and good prove it is Kim Jong-Il’s hand on the lever. From the Taepo Dong missiles to the decision to release two journalists to envoy Bill Clinton, only Kim Jong-Il himself could be making those decisions, Sharp said.
Kim Jong-Il has to convince the impoverished North Korean people they face an existential threat and that their military is powerful enough to counter it. Hence the missile shots and the nuclear program.
“It has greatly united the rest of the world against him,” according to Sharp.
Meanwhile the U.S. is digging in – literally. About 28,000 U.S. ground forces will stay in Korea and the Army is following the Air Force in urging soldiers to bring their families for three year tours. Construction projects are building new family housing and schools. Clearly the U.S. expects to be in Korea for a long time to come.
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