(2nd LD) U.S. admiral says ‘symbiotic’ N.K.-Russia cooperation runs counter to global peace principles

The nominee for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief expressed deep concerns Thursday over the burgeoning military partnership between North Korea and Russia, portraying it as a "symbiotic" one that goes against the principles of global peace. During a confirmation hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Samuel Paparo, currently U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, also noted that Russia might have given "potentially high-end" technology to the North in return for the North's arms supplies to Russia. His remarks came amid growing concerns that military cooperation between the North and Russia will have profound security implications on the Korean Peninsula and across the world. "It is concerning deeply. It is symbiotic," he said, referring to the bilateral partnership. "It closes gaps each for the other, providing conventional weapons to Russia from North Korea ... providing sanctions evading materials and potentially high-end technology to North Korea," he added. He went on to say, "In all cases, it r uns counter to the principles of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and globally." The White House has revealed that the North supplied Russia with several dozen ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine in addition to its earlier shipments of military equipment and munitions to Russia. In return for the North's armed support, Pyongyang has been seeking military assistance from Russia, "including fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment or materials, and other advanced technologies," according to U.S. officials. Paparo also touched on the "changing dynamic" of the Korean Peninsula where inter-Korean tensions have risen. "The changing dynamic is continued saber-rattling, continued proliferation, a greater volume of testing and weapons demonstrations on the part of the North," he said. "In response, South Korea has increased its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities in the vicinity of the North ... It continues to be tense." Ag ainst the backdrop of evolving North Korean threats, the admiral highlighted the importance of extended deterrence, America's commitment to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally. "Whatever the public statements (by North Korea), as a military commander, I must look at the capability development, and to be able to pace that, to deter that, extended deterrence, particularly with U.S. strategic forces, is absolutely essential," he said. He also underscored the role of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. "The Republic of Korea is the linchpin of peace, stability and security in the Pacific," he said. "We seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula." The hearing also touched on the issue of North Korea's reported cryptocurrency theft that is thought to have helped the reclusive regime evade sanctions and continue to bankroll its weapons programs. Asked if cutting off the North's access to cryptocurrency would strengthen global security, Paparo said, "Yes, directly." "C ryptocurrency inherently with its opaqueness, is a key enabler worldwide for proliferation, for terror, for illicit trafficking, including illicit trafficking in drugs," he said. He added, "People can make money outside the eyes of law, and it provides a moral hazard whereby people can do bad things without fear of punishment because it's opaque." Meanwhile, Senator Dan Sullivan recommended to the admiral that he read "This Kind of War" -- a book about the 1950-53 Korean War, where more than 33,600 American service members died. Paparo said his son gave him the book for Christmas, and that he will reread it. "The lesson is this. In 1945, we had the most fearsome, lethal military probably in the history of the world. Five years later in 1950, our military couldn't stop a third-world peasant army as it invaded South Korea," he said. "Literally, thousands of young Americans died in the summer of 1950 because we had weak civilian and weak uniformed military leaderships." The senator also expressed his worries that the U.S. is "shrinking" its armed forces at "one of the most dangerous periods we have seen since World War II." "We can't repeat history," Sullivan said. Source: Yonhap News Agency