Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, commander of the U.S. 7th Air Force and deputy commander of the United Nations Command Korea, speaks during a UNC-hosted ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday to mark the 64th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, South Korea, July 27 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is attempting to deter unity between South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan with a string of belligerent acts, the top American military commander here said Thursday.
Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who commands U.S. Forces Korea, pointed out that the communist regime's nearly weekly missile tests have become "the new normal."
The North test-fired 28 ballistic missiles in 2016 alone, followed by 10 others this year, including what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
It's also reportedly preparing for another missile launch in the coming days, although there was no report of a launch on Thursday, the 64th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
"His actions intend to sow friction and fissures among the five in order to prevent them from coming together as a cohesive block," Brooks said, addressing a forum under way in Nebraska, according to the USFK's website.
The two-day symposium on deterrence is being hosted by the U.S. Strategic Command.
"He's trying to prevent the creation of a closed fist against him," the commander said, showing the five fingers of his hand to refer to the five countries involved in the now suspended denuclearization talks with Pyongyang.
He described the North Korea issue as a "wicked problem" and called for a "creative" approach to resolve it by pooling the wisdom of various people.
He also stressed the importance of deterrence for the part of the United States and its allies.
"Deterrence aims to cause adversaries to reconsider their resolve to accept whatever consequences might emerge from their actions and to choose something less than having an adversary try to break their will -- in other words, bringing an adversary to his senses," he said.
Compellence, however, must remain an option if North Korea does not choose to be deterred instead, he added.
He appreciated South Korea's efforts to improve its own defense power, including the purchase of F-35 stealth jets, AH-64 Apache helicopters, more Aegis-equipped warships and the upgrade to Patriot missiles, coupled with the decision to deploy the THAAD missile shield.
South Korea has increased its defense budget to over $34 billion in 2017, 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product. The Moon Jae-in administration stated that it would raise the ratio to 2.9 percent within the next five years.
"These capabilities invested in by the Republic of Korea will add to the ongoing efforts to reduce North Korea's ability to hold the Republic of Korea [South Korea] and the U.S. forces present at risk," said Brooks.
He is wearing two other hats -- the head of the United Nations Command and the allies' Combined Forces Command.
The UNC has preserved the armistice that ended the 1950-53 conflict, he noted, as the command held a ceremony to mark the armistice anniversary at the truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday.