In an unusually frank assessment of risk, the Pentagon has noted that the forcible removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea would require a bloody and protracted ground war, a move lawmakers acknowledge would result in a death toll in the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, on the Korean Peninsula and surrounding regions.
Responding to a formal request by two US House members for projections relating to “expected casualty assessments in a conflict with North Korea,” the Pentagon stated in a letter that the only method to accomplish disarmament “with complete certainty” would be through a ground invasion, confirming fears that casualties — both military and civilian — would be very high, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The official Pentagon statement included the likelihood of a biological and chemical weapon defense by the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), and was penned by Rear Admiral Michael Dumont, vice director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. The letter took pains to assert that a more precise assessment of the tactics, logistics and human risk involved in a full-scale US ground assault against North Korea must remain classified, for now.
Dumont’s letter comes in response to a request for information for “expected casualty assessments in a conflict with North Korea,” spearheaded by Democratic House members Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
“We have not heard detailed analysis of expected US or allied force casualties, expected civilian casualties, what plans exist for the aftermath of a strike — including continuity of the South Korean Government,” stated Lieu and Gallego in their letter.
Noting the importance of bringing to light the severity of risk due to an all-out war with a nuclear-capable state, the two lawmakers in their request for information observed that “a decision to attack or invade another country will have ramifications for our troops and taxpayers, as well as the region, for decades,” particularly in the South Korean capital of Seoul, an area home to some 25 million people, cited by Tampabay.com.
The Pentagon response confirms their worst fears, claim the lawmakers. “This is grim,” said US House member Lieu, an Air Force veteran with experience in the Pacific operating theatre, who added that, “We need to understand what war means. And it hasn’t been articulated very well.”
The potential necessity of a no-holds-barred ground invasion of the DPRK to secure nuclear weapons indicates that the US military would likely suffer minimum losses in the thousands, suggested Gallego, cited by TampaBay.com.
While an estimated 29,000 US troops are deployed in South Korea, “It’s important for people to understand what a war with a nuclear power would look like,” said Lieu, who pointed to estimates of at least 300,000 dead on both sides within just the first few days.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder, asserted that the US military would provide no further details about Dumont’s letter.