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Panetta Talks the Talk

At a news conference in Seoul, Korea today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that "provocations by North Korea similar to a pair of deadly attacks last year will not be tolerated." He pledged that the United States will "sustain and enhance its military presence on the peninsula and in the Asian region despite the threat of deep cutbacks in the U.S. military budget."

At the same news conference,

South Korean Defense Minister Kim calls the possibility of fresh provocations next year by North Korea "very high."

Kim says if there is such an incident, South Korea would initially respond with its own forces and then, if an expanded counter-attack is needed, additional assets of the U.S. military would be included.

Secretary Panetta also "expressed doubts that talks between Washington and Pyongyang will convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs." He should have very substantial doubts, since North Korea's nuclear weapons program is the Kim regime's main bargaining chip in seeking "humanitarian" relief from the West, to ameliorate existing sanctions and to avoid new sanctions. Of no less importance, the regime blames Libya's now deceased dictator Gaddafi's problems on his agreement to get rid of his nuclear weapons.

In the event of new "provocations," will the U.S. military cuts already made and probably to be made permit the U.S. to do more than to safeguard the U.S. military forces in Korea, their dependents and civilian contractors? Very quick action to do even that would be needed.