By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
North Korea's artillery assault on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island is an issue of concern in a region that wants stability, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said recently on ABC's "The View" television show.
Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, appeared on the daytime talk show to discuss a range of issues, including the situation on the Korean peninsula.
"There is worrisome leadership in North Korea," Mullen said. "[North Korean President Kim Jong Il is] a very unpredictable guy, a very dangerous guy. This [attack] is also tied, we think, to the succession of his young, 27-year-old [son] who's going to take over at some point in the future, and he continues to generate these kinds of events."
Mullen said Americans should be concerned about North Korea's volatile posture, but he noted that the United States has 28,000 troops in South Korea, where "we are very much aligned with in supporting them."
"They are a strong ally. We need the region to stay very stable," Mullen said. "[Kim Jong Il] is a guy who creates instability routinely. I think it's very important, certainly with the Japanese and the South Koreans, but I also think it's important for China, to lead. The one country that has influence in Pyongyang is China, so their leadership is absolutely critical."
North Korea has worked hard to develop nuclear weapons, Mullen said, calling last week's revelation of the uranium enrichment facility there "a big deal." He said the facility has been described as sophisticated and modern.
"So, [If Kim Jong Il] continues on that path with nuclear weapons, or his son does, it could be a very dangerous outcome in the long term and it will at least destabilize an important part if the world," the chairman said.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Mullen backed the idea of high-level screenings and pat downs at airports.
"The recent events of the two cargo planes that had bombs on them, and certainly the bomb in Times Square, the Detroit bomber [Christmas Day 2009], were all very real and indicative of the threat that's out there," he said. "[Terrorists] are still trying to kill as many Americans as they can, so it's not going to go away."
Turning to the possible repeal of the military's so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Mullen said it is difficult to know what the outcome will be.
"For me," Mullen said, "it's been my personal view it is very difficult for an institution that values integrity like the military does to have people show up at work every day and lie about who they are."
Deborah Mullen said she works with families of returning veterans. She's also concerned about military's suicide rate, noting that it is the "most devastating loss to a family."
"Suicide is taboo in the civilian world. Nobody likes to talk about suicide," she said. "There really have been no studies done on suicide, and the military is going to lead the way on this because they began a study on suicide about a year ago on a five-year study." What the military learns about suicide will be shared with the rest of nation and the world, she said.