Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama Praises U.S. Troops’ Legacy in South Korea

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Visiting with U.S. troops stationed in South Korea near the demilitarized zone, President Barack Obama lauded their historic security role that assisted South Korea as it transformed itself into a democratic and prosperous nation in the years following the Korean War.

 “When you think about the transformation that has taken place in South Korea during my lifetime, it is directly attributable to this long line of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines [and] coast guardsmen who were willing to create the space and the opportunity for freedom and prosperity,” said Obama, who’s in South Korea to attend a Nuclear Security Summit in the capital city of Seoul.

At Camp Bonifas, located near the demilitarized zone that has divided North and South Korea since the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953, Obama told the troops they’re serving on “freedom’s frontier.” About 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea today.

“And the contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom, but also in terms of prosperity,” Obama said.

The president attributed South Korea's success to the “incredible” resilience, talents and hard work of their people.

“But it also has to do with you guys,” Obama told troops. “And so my main message is the same, obviously, to every base that I go to ... all around the world, which is, I could not be prouder of what you're doing. Everybody back home could not be prouder of what you guys do each and every day -- the dedication, the professionalism that you show.

“But there's something about this spot in particular,” he continued, “where there's such a clear line and there's such an obvious impact that you have for the good each and every day that should make all of you proud.”

The president shared an anecdote of a conversation he’d had with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

“Last time I was here, I was having lunch with the president of South Korea, President Lee,” Obama said. “And he talked about how he was a small child when the Korean War was taking place, and its aftermath, and the brutal poverty, the fact that they had nothing.

“And he went on to be an auto executive, and ultimately, the president of his country, and watch it grow,” Obama continued. “And he specifically said to me -- and this was a private moment; he didn't say this in front of the press, … he said, ‘The only reason that was able to happen -- and I still think back to all those American soldiers and the sacrifices that they made.’”

Obama expressed his pride in the job U.S. troops have done in South Korea and said he is grateful for the legacy they are carrying on.

“We're proud of you,” Obama told the U.S. service members, “and I hope that all your family back home knows how proud your commander-in-chief is of you.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Obama to Visit DMZ During South Korean Trip

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – President Barack Obama will visit the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea and meet with U.S. troops as part of his visit to the South Korean capital of Seoul next week.

Obama will arrive in the country March 25 to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

The visit has a certain symbolism, said White House officials speaking on background. “The president is the commander in chief, and the U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea,” an official said. “So it is logical and important to him to have the opportunity to visit with some of them on the front line and to say thank you for their service.”

An official noted that the visit coincides with the two-year anniversary of North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

“That incident and the cooperation between the U.S. and [South Korea] that followed is a special example of the solidarity and the cooperation between two treaty allies,” the official said. “The DMZ is the front line of democracy in the Korean peninsula, and it’s the symbol of the U.S. and the [South Korean] resolve, as well as solidarity.”

During the talks, Obama will continue to push for nations to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists, officials said. He also will discuss nonproliferation, including the challenges posed by North Korea and Iran. Obama also will emphasize that U.S. efforts on behalf of nuclear security and safety also are part of a commitment to peaceful nuclear energy as an important part of U.S. energy policy and energy around the world, an official said.

In addition to extended meetings with South Korean allies, the president will use the occasion to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan and China, officials said.

U.S. Suspends MIA Search in North Korea

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The United States has suspended efforts to find remains of U.S. service members lost during the Korean War due to North Korean threats to launch a ballistic missile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Recovering remains of those lost and unaccounted for is a priority to the Defense Department, and U.S. experts were due to enter North Korea this month.

“We have suspended that effort because we believe that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and that it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for,” Little said at a Pentagon news conference. “We do hope at some point to be able to re-engage the effort.”

The United States sees the recovery of remains as a humanitarian mission and does not link those operations with other policy issues, Tara Rigler, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement. However, she added, the North Koreans politicized these humanitarian operations “by linking them to long-standing annual military exercises which are defensive in nature and are designed to increase the interoperability between the United States and [South Korea].”

Rigler said these actions and other developments call into question the credibility of all of North Korea's commitments, including the remains recovery operations. “As a result,” she added, “we are suspending the current arrangement to resume remains recovery operations with [North Korea] until their actions indicate a willingness to move forward in good faith on its commitments.”

North Korea cited the exercises in refusing to honor procedures agreed to in October. Since then, Little said, indications have emerged that North Korea might launch ballistic missiles. “That would be in contravention of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he added, “and that is unacceptable behavior.”

The United States hopes to engage in the future with North Korea on efforts to recover remains, Little said. “But when there are suggestions that they might launch ballistic missiles, when they make bellicose statements about South Korea and engage in actions that could be construed as provocative, we think that it’s not the right time to undertake this effort,” he told reporters. “We’re hopeful that we will get past this period and that we can continue the remains recovery effort.”

The Defense Department remains committed to the fullest possible accounting of the more than 7,950 U.S. service members missing from the Korean War, officials said. An estimated 5,300 are missing in what is now North Korea. In many cases, the United States knows exactly where the service members were buried, as U.S. forces attacked up into North Korea in late 1950.

The Chinese army entered the fray and pushed U.S. and other United Nations forces out of the north. U.S. officials say they know where those burials are, but have not been able to get to them.

Other areas are more of a problem, officials said, especially graves associated with prisoner of war camps. The North Koreans and Chinese tortured, beat and starved POWs, and many hundreds died from the abuse, officials said.

Taiwanese Authorities Detain Chinese Spy

March 21, Associated Press – (International) Spies target Taiwan’s U.S.-made defenses. Taiwanese security personnel detained a suspected spy for China at a top secret military base that utilizes sensitive U.S. technology in February, the Associated Press reported March 21. The air force captain was the fourth Taiwanese in 14 months known to have been picked up on charges of spying for China. While Taiwan’s defense ministry did not disclose details of the alleged offense, his base in the northern part of the island hosts the air force’s highly classified radar system and U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles. The captain’s arrest followed that of a major general, who had access to crucial information on Taiwan’s U.S.-designed command and control system, and a civilian, who the defense ministry says tried without success to inveigle Patriot-related secrets from an unnamed military officer. A fourth alleged spy was detained on non-defense-related charges. The cases show China is seeking data about systems integral to Taiwan’s defenses and built with sensitive U.S. equipment. Information about the defense systems could also help the People’s Liberation Army understand other U.S. defenses.

Source: via Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report

Monday, March 12, 2012

Accused Member of Foreign Terrorist Organization Extradited to United States on Hostage-Taking Charges

WASHINGTON—Alexander Beltran Herrera, 35, aka Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, aka Rodrigo Pirinolo, an accused member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been extradited from Colombia to face hostage taking and terrorism charges in the United States.

The extradition was announced by Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; and Dena Choucair, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.

Beltran Herrera was extradited from Colombia to the United States over the weekend to face charges in an indictment returned in the District of Columbia on February 22, 2011. The indictment, which names as defendants 18 members of the FARC, charges Herrera specifically with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking; three counts of hostage taking; one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Beltran Herrera is scheduled to be arraigned today at 11:15 a.m. before Judge Royce C. Lamberth in federal court in the District of Columbia. If convicted of all the charges against him, he faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

According to the indictment, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, which, since its inception in 1964, has engaged in an armed conflict to overthrow the Republic of Colombia, South America’s longest-standing democracy. The FARC has consistently used hostage taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Republic of Colombia. Hostage taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership. The FARC has characterized American citizens as “military targets” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

[Editor’s note: The FARC is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla army that funds its war effort against the Colombian government and against self-defense citizens militias by partnering with drug cartels.]

The indictment alleges that Beltran Herrera was a member of the 27th Front in the FARC’s Southern Block. Beltran Herrera was allegedly involved in the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gosalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on February 13, 2003 by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.

According to the indictment, Gonsalves, Howes, and Stansell were held by the FARC at gunpoint and were advised by FARC leadership that they would be used as hostages to increase international pressure on the government of the Republic of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands.

The FARC at various times marched the hostages from one site to another, placing them in the actual custody of various FARC fronts. At the conclusion of one 40-day march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, commanded by Daniel Tamayo Sanchez, who was responsible for the hostages for nearly two years, after which they were delivered to the FARC’s 1st Front. During part of this two-year period with the 27th Front, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned.

Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards, including Beltran Herrera, used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks, and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape. The indictment also accuses Beltran Herrera of using and carrying a military-type machine gun during the hostage taking and providing material support and resources to aid in the hostage taking and to aid the FARC.

“Today’s extradition underscores our resolve to hold accountable all those responsible for this crime and we will not rest until every one of them is brought to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“This extradition is another step toward justice on behalf of Americans taken hostage and held in chains by a Colombian terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We will not hesitate to bring to justice anyone who targets Americans around the world with violence to advance their political agendas.”

“This extradition further disrupts and dismantles the FARC, a foreign terrorist organization that has engaged in violent acts against American and Colombian citizens,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Choucair. “The outstanding, long-term cooperation between the Colombian National Police and U.S. law enforcement has struck another blow to international terrorism.”

This investigation is being led by the FBI’s Miami Field Division. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion and Fernando Campoamar-Sanchez from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Substantial assistance in the case was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Colombia. The Directorate of Intelligence (DIPOL) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (GAULA) of the Colombian National Police also provided substantial assistance.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.