North Korea’s military faces a readiness issue, along with low morale across its forces, but dictator Kim Jong Un is keeping the threat level high through “asymmetric” investments, the head of Pacific Air Forces said. Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, PACAF’s chief, said the North Korean threat does “keep me awake,” but US forces in the area are ready “at a moment’s notice” if conflict breaks out.” “We are in fact prepared for that,” he said at AWS17. North Korea’s “million-man army” is not as ready now as it was a decade ago under Kim’s father Kim Jong Il, and low morale is hurting its readiness. However, North Korea is “still a credible threat” because of investments in ballistic missiles, long-range artillery, and cyber operations, O’Shaughnessy said. His comments come as the US and South Korea kicked off Exercise Foal Eagle, made up of tens of thousands of South Korean troops and thousands of US troops. O’Shaughnessy wouldn’t telegraph the plans for this year’s exercise, but said it is “flexible” to respond to current threats.
As the Pentagon increasingly pivots its focus to strategic competition with China, the U.S. will look to expand its partnership with South Korea to increase security across the entire Indo-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Dec. 2 during a visit to the northeastern Asian nation.