Neller: US Seeking Diplomacy But Planning for War with North Korea

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to guests at the Center for Strategic International Studies, Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to guests at the Center for Strategic International Studies, Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Thursday "prudent" planning was underway for the possibility of war with North Korea despite the apparent easing of tensions on the peninsula for the Winter Olympics.

"I think the biggest thing everybody's done is just look at, get familiar with the geography, get familiar with the plans and do some logistical preparation -- that's just prudent," Neller said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Neller also sought to tone down remarks he made to Marines in Norway earlier this month, first reported by Military.com in which he warned, "There's a war coming, a big-a-- fight."

At the time, Neller did not specify where the fight would be, but his remarks drew a rebuke from President Donald Trump at a later Jan. 10 White House news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Ema Solberg.

"Well, maybe he knows something that I don't know," Trump said in reference to Neller.

"No, I think we will have peace through strength," the president said. "Our military will be stronger than it ever was in a very short period of time. That's my opinion. That's not the general's opinion, but I think my opinion counts more right now."

At the think tank Thursday in Washington, D.C., Neller said that in Norway he was only trying to get across that Marines always must be ready.

"I wasn't predicating. I wasn't saying it was going to happen. I hope it doesn't happen. I don't want it to happen. It would not be good for anybody," Neller said

Neller echoed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in stressing that diplomacy was the first option in seeking to rein in North Korea's nuclear and intercontinental missile threats.

However, he also said that Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, have "done a very good job" in preparing "force deployment options" for any eventuality.

Neller said the message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was, "You don't want to do this. You really don't want to do this."

In South Korea on Thursday, North Korean officials inspected sites for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, about 50 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, in preparation for the games, which South Korea's Yonhap news agency called "a rare sign of reconciliation with the South."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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