Dempsey visits South Korea as part of Asia trip

Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited South Korea on Sunday to meet with senior U.S. and South Korean commanders about North Korea.

While Dempsey, Army Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea and Staff Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the South Korean chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about several important issues related to the U.S.-South Korea alliance, North Korea was the central topic.

South Korea's military is on a heightened state of readiness after North Korea conducted an illegal nuclear test in February and issued a series of threats and provocations directed at the U.S. and its allies. The South Korean military is gathering intelligence and bolstering its ballistic missile defense and counter-battery artillery fire in preparation for a potential military conflict.

Dempsey said the newest insight he gained from the discussion was that the actions of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, are markedly different from those of his father or grandfather. Kim is engaged in a prolonged campaign of provocative actions and words, including severing military communications between North and South Korea, threatening sea of fire attacks and moving missiles into launch-ready positions.

"The question that we were discussing today primarily was, 'How do we posture ourselves for a period of prolonged provocation?" Dempsey said. "How do you sustain [that]?'"

Dempsey said it was likely that Thurman and Jung will increase joint operations to bring forces into closer alignment to share the burden of prolonged tension.

Dempsey left Seoul shortly after the meeting for a weeklong series of engagements in China and Japan.