USFK to bring Apache battalion back to Korea
24 attack choppers, Patriot missiles to boost readiness against NK
By Lee Tae-hoon
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has requested the Pentagon deploy one aviation battalion of 24 Apache attack choppers, more Patriot missile interceptors and reconnaissance aircraft, all targeting North Korea, USFK Commander Gen. James Thurman said Tuesday.
“I have asked for prioritization to receive an additional attack-reconnaissance squadron to bring to our combat aviation brigade,” the general said at a forum in Seoul.
Thurman, who took the job of commanding the 28,000-strong U.S. forces here in July last year, noted that the aviation battalion would be put under the 2nd Infantry Division and the Patriot missiles units would reinforce the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
In a hearing at the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in late March, Thurman said that he wanted to bring an aviation battalion back to Korea from Afghanistan where it was sent.
The U.S. military withdrew two AH-64D Apache Longbow attack battalions from Korea to deploy in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2009 following a troop drawdown deal with Seoul.
The general added during the forum that he was confident that the additional military assets will be deployed in the South.
“I’m confident we will be able to work this,” he said, noting that his top priority is maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. “I will ensure that we maintain the highest level of readiness.”
Asked about a possible nuclear test by North Korea and speculation over military provocations, Thurman replied that the allies were fully prepared to “deter North Korean aggression and defeat that aggression, should deterrence fail.”
He refrained from elaborating details of operational matters, but pointed out that his top “priority is to remain ready to defend South Korea against any North Korean provocation whether it be strategic, tactical or asymmetric.”
“The U.S. military is closely monitoring military movements in North Korea to make sure we are properly defending and providing the right security on the peninsula,” Thurman said.
On Monday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) held a random inspection of the country’s defense readiness of military units including the ballistic missile command, border artillery units and the Air Force.
Seoul also warned Pyongyang that it would immediately retaliate against the communist regime’s command units if the North launches an attack against the South.