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U.S. military chief visits DMZ, says alliance changing
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) -- The top U.S. military officer, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, caught some North Korean soldiers off guard earlier this week as he traveled to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas, according to the Pentagon.

   Several stories, carried Monday on the Web site of the Defense Department, gave detailed accounts of Dempsey's visits to Seoul and the DMZ along with Army Gen. James D. Thurman, who leads the U.S. Forces Korea.

   Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Thurman toured the Freedom House and a conference room at the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ on Sunday (Seoul time).

   "North Korean soldiers hurried down to the buildings with cameras when Dempsey and Thurman arrived," a story read. "North Korean soldiers stared in the window as Dempsey walked to the northern side of the building."


Panmunjom is a vivid reminder of the reality that the two Koreas remain technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a formal peace treaty. The truce was signed in Panmunjom, which is guarded jointly by South Korean and U.S. troops on the southern side.

   "As he and Thurman visited the DMZ, Dempsey noted that they both started their military careers in Germany, guarding the border between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. That heavily guarded border now is a thing of the past," the story added.

   Another article by the American Forces Press Service introduced Dempsey's meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Jung Seung-jo, after the DMZ tour.

   Dempsey was quoted as saying that the alliance is successful, but it is going to change. He was apparently referring to the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops to Seoul in 2015.

   The transition will lead to the dismantling of the Combined Forces Korea, the control tower of joint military operations between the allies. The two sides are in consultations over an alternative joint command system.

   Dempsey also said he and Jung discussed North Korea, which carried out two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 and other provocative acts.

   "We took stock of activities over time, whether it's the obvious ones like the shelling of islands and the sinking of the Cheonan, or GPS jamming or the missile tests," he added.

   Dempsey is on a swing through Asia-Pacific, which also took him to Japan and Australia.