By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera cautioned Tuesday against the perils of North Korea's information and cyber operations, stressing the need to "think, act and operate differently" to cope with threats from relatively new domains.
He highlighted the importance of South Korea and the United States taking into account "multi-domain" aspects to handle the recalcitrant regime's evolving military threats.
"DPRK provocations go beyond its illegal missile or nuclear programs," he said at an online forum hosted by the U.S.-based Institute for Corean-American Studies, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Its Information operations spread mis-, dis- and mal-information and propaganda around the world, and it uses cyber operations to conduct espionage and generate revenue for the regime."
The commander also hinted that Pyongyang's recent unveiling of an aggressive nuclear policy, which leaves open the possibility of a preemptive strike in a contingency, could be part of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recourse to information tactics.
"He's got elements of national power and information is an element of national power, just like military and economic and diplomatic," he said. "I think he's using all the elements of national power."
Threats emanating from various realms necessitate operations that take multi-domain perspectives into consideration, he stressed.
"Deterring DPRK will require us to be able to provide a combat credible force capable of thinking, operating and acting in combined, joint interagency," he said. "More importantly, we need to think multi-domain."
LaCamera also noted the complex nature of deterrence against North Korean threats, saying it is "no longer simply having more missiles than our adversaries."
"Deterring DPRK and assuring Korean people requires a whole-of-government approach incorporating all the elements of government power, diplomatic, information, military, economic, intelligence, law enforcement," he said. "And I would add in technology as an element of power for our governments."
Stressing the need for Seoul and Washington to build a coalition to deter Pyongyang and maintain the "rules-based" order, LaCamera decried North Korea, China and Russia as pursuing a different order based on "coercion, intimidation and threats."
"Our alliance seeks a rules-based order founded on cooperation," he said. "We must remain vigilant against threats to the international rules-based system that has made Korea so prosperous."
On the question about a potential -- if any -- role for Seoul to play as an ally in the event of any Taiwan-related crisis, the commander refused to give a direct answer but noted that "what starts locally becomes regional and global pretty quickly."
"I think that's what we've learned in the last couple of years with whether it's Ukraine or whether it's COVID or the other things that have occurred," he said. "Again, my job here is to defend the Korean Peninsula and to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia."
LaCamera also leads the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command and the U.N. Command.