PACOM chief says N. Korea's ICBM threat is serious

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- A top U.S. military commander voiced concerns Tuesday over North Korea's long-range missile program, calling it a serious issue.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, pointed out the reclusive communist nation wants the U.S. to believe it has the capability of sending missiles to the mainland U.S.

He especially talked about KN-08 road-mobile missiles that were unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012, despite some experts' view that those were fake.

"For our military planning perspective, when I see KN-08 road-mobile missiles that appear in a North Korean military parade, I am bound to take that serious, both for not only the peninsula but also the region, as well as my own homeland should we speculate that those missiles potentially have the technology to reach out," he said at a news conference arranged by the Washington Foreign Press Center.

On the alliance with South Korea, the admiral said his troops will stay combat-ready regardless of the timing of the transfer of operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops in the event of war back to Seoul.

Even if the allies have a deal on a transition in 2015, proper conditions are needed, added the commander, leading the Hawaii-based command with roughly 330,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel.

"But as we are moving toward 2015, it will be based on what the conditions are at that time," he said. "What we don't want to do is to delay ensuring that we have the right things in place to make sure the alliance is as viable as it can be in the future, waiting on some decision about OPCON (operational control) transfer, because it's really not that important of a decision."

South Korea's military has proposed a further delay in the OPCON transfer, saying it needs more time to prepare for it amid increased North Korean threats.

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