‘US ready for anything’ amid North Korean threats: Ambassador Goldberg

Philip Goldberg speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination to be ambassador to the Republic of Korea, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 7. UPI-Yonhap

The United States remains ready for “anything” that could happen on the Korean Peninsula, its top envoy to South Korea said Tuesday amid tensions heightened by Pyongyang’s recent sending of trash-filled balloons to the South and Seoul’s subsequent reaction to it.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg made the remarks, criticizing the North’s floating of the balloons across the inter-Korean border as “outrageous” and “counterproductive” to reducing tensions on the peninsula.

The North has sent waste-loaded balloons, taking issue with South Korean activists’ sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North. In response, the South resumed loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts near the border on Sunday, but decided to halt the broadcasts the following day.

“We are ready for anything that happens, and we are not letting our guard down at all because it’s very unpredictable,” Goldberg said during a podcast hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The ambassador highlighted the readiness of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to defend South Korea.

“They follow this hour by hour, minute by minute, and we, at the embassy, do too,” he said.

“We are standing by our allies. 토토 We are discussing the full range of our military and security policies to make sure that the ROK is reassured and the people of the ROK are reassured of the American commitment that shouldn’t be in doubt,” he added. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

Goldberg went on to stress that USFK troops are “evidence” of America’s long-term security commitment to South Korea.

His emphasis on readiness was accompanied by his apparent call for Pyongyang to refrain from ratcheting up tensions.

“What they are doing with these balloons are outrageous and so counterproductive to reduction of tensions and we will stand by our ROK allies absolutely in all of this,” he said.

The ambassador also said that it is “natural” for the South to take steps to deter the North’s provocative acts “through building up the alliance and by showing resolve.”

Touching on South Korean activists’ movement to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets, he pointed out the need for tension reduction.

“We, of course, believe in free speech and the rest, but we also understand that we need to reduce tensions, not increase them,” he said.

Regarding a recent trilateral summit between South Korea, China and Japan in Seoul, the ambassador said that Washington is not concerned about it, as he cast it as a “natural” process to manage their relations.

Goldberg was in Washington to attend a conference of chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions.

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