Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Military News

Howard Altman: Former South Korean commando leader liked Trump's 'fire and fury'

President Donald Trump kicked off a firestorm over his statement that a missile attack from North Korea would "be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

But one man, anyway — the former head of South Korea's commando forces — tells me the words, while harsh, may have had the desired effect.

After those comments, and new United Nations sanctions, it now appears that North Korean despot Kim Jong-un has apparently called off plans to fire missiles towards Guam, a U.S. territory. In-Bum Chun says Trump's statements "contributed in a good way" toward Kim backing off his threats.

"Kim Jong-un is a practical person, so I think he understood that this time he might have overstepped a little bit too far," Chun said in a phone conversation Wednesday. "There is an old Korean saying that a fighting dog does not bark. I don't use that often out of respect for dogs."

•••

I first met Chun a few years back while he was touring Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa. At the time, he was the three-star general in charge of South Korea's Special Operations Forces. I saw him again in February at the Global SOF Foundation symposium, where we talked about his concern over the growing North Korean ballistic missile capabilities.

Last week, as the tensions on the peninsula were at a boil, he expressed his concerns about someone as mercurial as Kim having intercontinental ballistic missiles and the eventual capability to equip them with nuclear warheads.

"I am very worried," he told me last week. "I've never believed Kim John-un was crazy. They have a rationale all their own, but it seems they are very close to a miscalculation."

At the time, Kim threatened to fire a missile toward Guam, a U.S. territory and home to a key military base. Trump's "fire and fury" statement seemed to stoke tensions. But to Chun, it was just a matter of speaking the language Kim understands.

"I am concerned about their stupidity and ignorance," Chun said. "If you are trying to talk to an ignorant and stupid person and you have a Ph.D., you have to talk on their level, not on your level."

Trump's remarks, said Chun, "were probably on their level."

•••

Chun, who retired in 2015 after 35 years in uniform and is a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institute's Center for East Asia Policy Studies, said South Koreans were surprised by Trump's comments.

"My friends are pretty worried" about the increasing belligerence from Pyongyang, said Chun. "The population seems to be more concerned than before, as they should be, because now we have both sides of the Pacific exchanging very extreme words. It is nothing new from the North Koreans, but very new for the United States."

But one thing hasn't changed, he said. Tens of millions of South Koreans are still in range of the north's artillery and missiles.

"It's like having cancer," he said. "You live with it."

•••

Chun last week repeated his concern about the rapid development of North Korea's missile program and said he would not be surprised if the North Koreans were able to put a nuclear warhead on a missile with a workable re-entry system by the end of next year.

Top U.S. military officials say that diplomacy, which is underway, is preferred, but war plans are ready.

Chun declined to talk about South Korean capabilities or potential plans, but said his country is "prepared to execute."

Any attack on the north would be difficult at best, he said.

"They have been digging tunnels for the past 70 years," Chun said. "Not even the North Koreans know where all their stuff is underground."

•••

The Pentagon last week announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Sgt. Roshain Euvince Brooks, 30, of Brooklyn, New York and Spc. Allen Levi Stigler Jr., 22, of Arlington, Texas died Aug. 13 of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in Iraq. Both soldiers were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The incident is under investigation.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 42 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan; 35 troop deaths and one civilian death in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against the Islamic State; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; and one death under classified as other contingency operations as part of the global war on terrorism.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

Comments
Altman: ‘I could not look away from the bones of Verdun’

Altman: ‘I could not look away from the bones of Verdun’

A family trip to Douaumont Ossuary in France provided a vivid reminder of the true cost of war.
Published: 11/12/18
An empty foxhole, an anonymous grave, and a World War II mystery solved after 74 years

An empty foxhole, an anonymous grave, and a World War II mystery solved after 74 years

Jack Cummings posed on the lawn in his uniform, hands clasped behind his back, his Army cap perched on his head at a jaunty angle.
Published: 11/12/18
New play ‘Last Out’ encourages veterans to ease the pain of war by telling their stories

New play ‘Last Out’ encourages veterans to ease the pain of war by telling their stories

The Green Beret instructor moved up close to Danny Patton. "Out of 600 candidates, only a handful you will make the cut," he yelled in Patton’s ear. "This class represents an all-time low of the America gene pool!" Patton was about to respond...
Published: 11/09/18
Ian David Long: What we know about the California bar gunman

Ian David Long: What we know about the California bar gunman

Neighbors of Ian David Long described the man who shot and killed 12 people at a country music bar as distant in public but combative with his mother inside the suburban Los Angeles home the two share
Published: 11/09/18
Land O’ Lakes veteran finds new purpose in adaptive sports

Land O’ Lakes veteran finds new purpose in adaptive sports

Green Beret George Vera credits Warrior Games, Invictus Games for helping him get back to ‘normality.’
Published: 11/06/18
Number of homeless veterans in Tampa Bay dropping faster than nationwide

Number of homeless veterans in Tampa Bay dropping faster than nationwide

The number of homeless veterans in the Tampa Bay area is dropping, and at a faster rate than the national average, according to statistics released Thursday.Nationwide, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 5.4 percent compared to last year,...
Published: 11/01/18
Townhall for new Riverview VA Clinic draws hundreds

Townhall for new Riverview VA Clinic draws hundreds

Calling it ‘SOHI,’ VA officials update veterans on the facility and sign up patients
Updated one month ago
Howard Altman: On invasion’s anniversary, those with much at stake in Afghanistan look back

Howard Altman: On invasion’s anniversary, those with much at stake in Afghanistan look back

In the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 2001, Mark Nutsch and Robert Pennington were Green Berets assigned to ODA 595. They were stepping off a helicopter to meet with members of the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. About ...
Updated one month ago
Hillsborough puts battlefield and court fights behind, dedicates new Civil War memorial

Hillsborough puts battlefield and court fights behind, dedicates new Civil War memorial

TAMPA — Efforts to mark America’s bloodiest conflict proved divisive as Hillsborough County made plans to erect a Civil War memorial.But the final result was dedicated Saturday morning in peace and solemnity, with a nod to those who fought for both t...
Updated one month ago
New USF institute cements ties with SOCom in pursuit of security innovations

New USF institute cements ties with SOCom in pursuit of security innovations

TAMPA — Inside a mesh cage at a University of South Florida engineering lab, ten small drones lift off and hover in unison, the sound of tiny blades whirring like a hive of angry hornets.They are part of the technology being developed here for hypers...
Updated one month ago