Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States plans a “substantial” military investment in its alliance with South Korea in the next four years, but it also expects Seoul to improve its defense capabilities.
At the same time, he predicted that, sooner or later, the North Korean people will be freed from the communist dictatorship that has ruled the country for 50 years.
“While the situation in North Korea sometimes looks bleak, I’m convinced that one day freedom will come to the people of the North and light up that oppressed land with hope and with promise,” Mr. Rumsfeld said in a speech to the U.S.-Korea Business Council on Tuesday.
The event was closed to the press, but the Pentagon released a transcript of the secretary’s remarks yesterday.
Administration officials insisted that he was making no specific reference to the future of Kim Jong-il’s regime. They also said that actively seeking “regime change” is not part of U.S. policy toward the North.
In late July, comments in Seoul by John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, describing life in North Korea as a “hellish nightmare” outraged Pyongyang. The North responded by calling Mr. Bolton “human scum.”
That heated exchange occurred amid preparations for six-party talks on the North’s nuclear weapons program, which took place in late August in Beijing. The United States, Japan, China, Russia, South and North Korea participated in the meeting.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Monday he hoped that a second meeting will be convened soon.
Mr. Rumsfeld, in his speech Tuesday, said that transforming the U.S. and South Korean forces on the peninsula is both a necessity and an opportunity “to modernize the alliance and adapt it to the changing security requirements of region and world.”
Despite plans to move some of the 37,000 American troops south of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, “there certainly would be no change at all in our commitment to the defense of South Korea, and just let there be no doubt about that,” he said.
“Over the next four years, the United States has plans to make a substantial investment in the alliance, strengthening more than 150 of our various military capabilities,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
“And we’ve been assured that Korea will complement those investments with improved capabilities of their own,” he said. “These parallel investments demonstrate not only the partnership between our two countries but also our determination to do what’s necessary to ensure deterrence, security and stability on the peninsula.”