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US Admiral Scott Swift: North Korea Worrisome

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NORTH KOREA
Hong Kong-born U.S. Navy sailors, Kong Tsui-yee, left and Morris Ng stand in front of the Chinese national flag on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in Hong Kong Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) | AP

HONG KONG -- A senior U.S. Navy commander said Wednesday he worries much more about North Korea than about other Asian countries, including rising military power China.

Vice Adm. Scott Swift, who took over as commander of the 7th Fleet in September, said that while the U.S. military has an "open and robust" relationship with China, he spends a lot of time thinking about North Korea because of its "unpredictability."

"Insight to what their thoughts may be is very limited. It's a closed society," Swift said.

That's "a concern to me because I could not guess where any decision may be going with respect to North Korea," said Swift, who said he wanted good relationships with his counterparts in Asia so that he could anticipate what they might do instead of react to them.

Swift said that China is using its military and diplomatic might to protect its growing array of interests around the world. But he says it's not something "it's not something I wring my hands over" because the U.S. also shares many of China's interests, such as fighting human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Swift spoke during a visit to Hong Kong with the USS George Washington aircraft carrier group. The 7th fleet is based in Yokosuka, Japan and covers most of the Pacific and Indian oceans. It boasts about 60 other ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines.