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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Location: Washington, DC

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My first question relates to Korea and as I understand it, we have about over 30,000 -- somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 troops there -- stationed there right now. And as I understand it, the South Korean military is maybe around a million or so, and those are round figures I know. This is more of a philosophical question and that is, what is the -- in your estimation what is the deterrence consideration that we provide in South Korea? It seems to me that we would be quite a deterrent to any aggression by North Korea and that it is important that we maintain a presence there, if nothing else just for the deterrence factor there. Could I hear a response on that?

GEN. LaPORTE: Senator, I think you're exactly right. We've been a tremendous deterrent for the past 50 years. But it's been a result of a combined forces deterrence, not a U.S. unilateral deterrence. And I'd just like to highlight the South Korean military is a very capable military.

Over 640,000 strong on active duty, they're well equipped, they're well trained and they're extremely well led. They're motivated. They are good warfighters. We train with them on a daily basis. They have a very good Army that has modern equipment. They have an Air Force with very talented and very well trained pilots and good equipment. They're purchasing the F-15. Their Navy is a very good Navy and getting stronger every day. And they have one of the finest Marine Corps in the world. So I have great confidence in the South Korean military and they play a predominant role, and it'll be an increasing, significantly more viable role in their national security posture.

SEN. PRYOR: And this is a follow up to Senator Roberts' question a moment ago, and I know that he was not implying this or would not even ever say this because he doesn't believe this. But I have heard some say that we should just withdraw from the South Korean Peninsula altogether and, you know, always be ready to respond but not have any presence there.

I personally think that's a mistake and I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

GEN. LaPORTE: I began in my conversation saying that what happens in Korea has an impact throughout the world, and I truly believe that. Thirty percent of the gross domestic product of the world is produced in the Northeast Asia region. You have four of the largest six militaries in the world there. For the reasons of stability and peace, I think it's very important that the United States has presence on the peninsula and that presence is linked with forces and other regional neighbors and allies throughout the Pacific.

SEN. PRYOR: If I can change gears and go to Columbia here for just a few moments, and I'll be glad to sit down and meet with you in private about this. But I don't want to say I have a concern, but I want to make sure that you and your forces are receiving the right kind of training, right kind of equipment, the right kind of people there to fulfill your mission. I know it's very difficult, under very difficult circumstances. It's a different kind of mission, it's a very unique mission in a lot of ways and I just want you to know that I'd be glad to sit down any time and talk about what you think your special needs may be to accomplish the goal there.

GEN. HILL: I appreciate that, Senator, and I'll set up a time to come in and do that.

SEN. PRYOR: Great, thank you.

GEN. HILL: Thank you, sir.

SEN. PRYOR: That's all, Mr. Chairman.

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