Schwartz: Air Force Ready To Respond To Korea Attack - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Schwartz: Air Force Ready To Respond To Korea Attack

AIRFORCETIMES.COM - The Air Force stands ready to respond if hostilities between North Korea and South Korea escalate, the service's top uniformed officer said, but American fighter jets remained at their normal alert status a day after a North Korean artillery attack.

The North fired artillery shells at the island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, killing two people and dramatically raising tensions between American-allied South Korea and the nuclear-armed north.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, in a meeting with reporters later that morning, said his service has plenty of firepower in the region and listed the bases from which the service could send planes for a response: Osan Air Base and Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, bases on mainland Japan and bases in the Pacific.

"The bottom line is that U.S. Forces-Korea certainly is monitoring the situation carefully," he said. "[Commander Gen. Skip Sharp] has operational control of Air Force assets on that reside on the peninsula and can be augmented if required."

Schwartz said the South Korean air force, which had eight F-15s flying combat air patrols, was leading in the air response.

He declined to give his opinion about the idea of sending tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula, an issue raised earlier this week by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-yong. The U.S. removed its tactical nukes from South Korea in 1991.

Schwartz said the issue had not been discussed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but any advice he has would be offered confidentially to Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

"The bottom line is, we have substantial capability on the peninsula and in the immediate environments to sustain a very credible deterrent posture," Schwartz said.

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