UPDATE: U.S. military officials told a Voice of America journalist in a statement that the quotes attributed to Gen. Tolley were fabricated.
“At no time have SOF [Special Operations] forces been sent to the north to conduct special reconnaissance,” said the United States Forces Korea.
U.S. Army Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, told an audience in Tampa that U.S. and South Korean forces have been sent into North Korea to spy on the communist country’s vast collection of underground tunnels and military installations.
The extraordinary admission, which went unreported by U.S. media, came on May 22 during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. Tolley said his command has identified 20 airfields and 180 munitions factories that are partially underground, along with thousands of subterranean artillery positions.
“The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Tolley added, according a report published Monday by The Diplomat, a Japan-based foreign affairs magazine.
“So we send ROK [Republic of Korea] soldiers and U.S. soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance.”
North Korea, he said, has dug tunnels underneath the Demilitarized Zone separating it from the South. “There were four tunnels under the DMZ,” Tolley observed, according to a Tampa Tribune blogger. “Those are the ones we know about.”
Tolley’s commandos, he said, parachute into North Korea to watch the tunnels and gather intelligence, carrying the bare minimum of supplies to avoid detection.
The brigadier general appeared on a panel with his counterparts from the much larger African, European, Pacific and Southern commands. But the comparatively tiny region he oversees, he said, is nothing to sneeze at.
“We have only two countries and one time zone,” he explained, “but what we lack in size we make up for in kilotons of evil.”