Entries in Defense Secretary (3)


Defense Secretary Concerned over North Korean Mobile Rocket Launcher

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that there’s “growing concern” about a new North Korean mobile launcher for long-range rockets that was first displayed by North Korea at a military parade this past weekend.

At Thursday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria, Panetta said that regardless of North Korea’s failed missile launch last week it was still a provocation.

“There’s no question that North Korea’s capabilities with regards to ICBMs and, you know, their developing  nuclear capability represent a threat to the United States.  And for that reason, we take North Korea and their provocative actions very seriously.

“The history is they usually turn somewhere else to try to do  something provocative, and we hope they don’t do that.  We’re prepared from the Defense Department’s point of view to deal with any contingency, but there is growing concern about, you know, the mobile capabilities that were on display on the parade recently in North Korea.”

During a military parade to honor the centennial of the birth of Kim il Sung, North Korea unveiled what appeared to a be a new long-range missile.  The missile was mounted on a 16-wheel truck that appeared to be a mobile launcher.  Because the vehicles can transport missiles for launch from different sites, they are harder to find and destroy.

Panetta said better intelligence is needed to determine exactly what those mobile capabilities are and look at “what’s real and what’s not real here in order to determine exactly what that threat represents."  Panetta was referring to speculation that perhaps the new long-range missile may have been just a mock-up intended to impress a foreign audience.  However, Panetta said that “the bottom line is if they, in fact, have a mobile capability to be able to have ICBMs deployed in that manner, that increases the threat coming from North Korea.”

There’s also been speculation that the mobile launcher the rocket was mounted on could only have come from China despite U.N. Security Council resolutions barring the export of that type of equipment. Panetta spoke generally about China providing some assistance, though he did not specify exactly what it was.

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China.  I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that.  I think we’d have to deal with it in another context in terms of the sensitivity of that information.  But, clearly, there’s been assistance along those lines."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Defense Secretary Gates Adding South Korea to Asia Trip

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Last week, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would be traveling to China and Japan.

The plan to travel to China is an effort to restore the U.S.-Chinese military relationship that was frayed last year after the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.
Now, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says that Gates will also visit South Korea as part of this trip -- a timely visit given the recent tensions on the Korean peninsula.
"Secretary Gates has added a brief stop in the Republic of Korea to his upcoming trip to Asia. Following previously announced visits to China and Japan, the Secretary will travel to Seoul on Jan. 14 to meet with Minister of Defense Kim.  They will discuss North Korea's recent actions and consult on the way forward for the alliance to address the threats posed by North Korean provocations and its nuclear and missile programs," Morrell says.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


NATO to Discuss 2014 Security Transition to Afghan Forces

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- Afghanistan will be able to take on its own security by 2014, according to top Pentagon officials.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters in Australia Monday that when NATO leaders meet in Portugal next week, they will likely agree on a 2014 target date for NATO security responsibilities in Afghanistan to transfer over to Afghan security forces.

Gates said, “One of the agenda items for the Lisbon summit is to embrace President  Karzai's goal of completing the transfer of security responsibility to Afghanistan by 2014.  So I think that's the kind of time frame we're looking at."  Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged at last July’s Donors Conference in Kabul to set 2014 as a goal for Afghan forces to assume security responsibilities in his country.

Both Gates and Mullen said that the 2014 transition date is realistic, "as a target at this point that makes sense, so I am comfortable with it," Mullen said.

2014 might be the target date for turning over security responsibility, but it likely won’t be the date for pulling out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  According to Gates, "We're going to remain a partner of Afghanistan even after our troops are gone.  We walked away from Afghanistan in 1988, and we saw the consequences of that in 2001."

It also won’t necessarily mean that coalition  troops will be fully gone from the areas, but instead what will occur is a “thinning out” of coalition forces who will still be available to provide support for Afghan troops that come in.  According to Gates, "you will see a thinning of the foreign forces in a district or province so there is a bit of a safety net under the Afghans as they take charge…I think this makes a lot sense."

Gates said he wouldn’t be surprised “if there are some recommendations as early as next spring, in terms of districts or provinces, that might be candidates for transition to Afghan security at that time."  Gates said commanders will make their recommendations on which areas are good candidates, and then coalition and Afghan government officials will assess whether a security transition is doable.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio