By Daily Mail Reporter
- Controversial report says soldiers parachuted into North Korea to gather intelligence about underground tunnels
- U.S. military denies report, saying quotes were ‘made up’
A team of specially-trained U.S. commandos infiltrated North Korea in a spy mission focused on the regime’s nuke program, according to a controversial report that the U.S. military denies.
The allegations are sure to stoke already sensitive tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
According to a report yesterday in The Diplomat, Brigadier Gen Neil H. Tolley acknowledged that U.S. and South Korean special forces have parachuted into the North to get a closer look at underground military tunnels the regime has constructed.
If true, the mission would break rules set in place by the 1953 armistice agreement that marked the end of the Korean War.
A portion of the document states: ‘No person, military or civilian, shall be permitted to cross the military demarcation line unless specifically authorized to do so by the Military Armistice Commission.’
Gen Tolley is the commanding general of the Special Operations Command, United State Forces Korea, according to a biography on the National Guard website.
The report in the Japan-based online magazine was met with strong opposition in Washington, where U.S. military officials denied such an operation ever took place.
As news of the alleged reconnaissance mission spread, United States Forces Korea spokesman Col Jonathan Withington, disputed the report.
In a statement, Col Withington said: ‘Quotes have been made up and attributed to [Gen Tolley]. No U.S. or [South Korean] forces have parachuted into North Korea.’
Today, The Diplomat, which has since removed the article from its site, issued a clarification of the original report:
‘In response to the controversy that has attended yesterday’s story on North Korea, The Diplomat has sought corroboration.
‘While the author strongly disputes the contention that any quote was fabricated, we acknowledge the possibility that Brig Gen Tolley was speaking hypothetically, about future war plans rather than current operations.
AFP reported that the writer of the piece, David Axe, stood by the story, telling the agency that if the general was speaking hypothetically, ‘he did not say so.’
Mr Axe added that Gen Tolley ‘spoke in the present tense’ and ‘at length.’
For observers of North Korea, little has changed since the death of longtime rule Kim Jong Il in December, and his son Kim Jong Un’s rise to power.
‘None,’ said Andrei Lankov, a scholar on the North at Seoul’s Kookmin University, when asked if he had seen signs of significant change since December.
Lankov said: ‘The young dictator is still controlled and surrounded by the old guard, the same people who for many years formulated and executed his father’s polices, so it is too early to expect any noticeable change.’