US military chiefs have reportedly warned that a war with North Korea could result in the death or injury of around 10,000 American soldiers in just the opening days, with the number far exceeding the total 7,000 killed in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The revelation emerged on Thursday after top military leaders in the United States attended a classified gathering in Hawaii to raise their concerns and discuss various scenarios that would arise in the early stages of a prospective US-North Korea conflict.
Pentagon officials in the meeting, led by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and US Special Operations Commander General Raymond Thomas, claimed that the opening days of the full-scale war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.”
Based on calculations, 10,000 US soldiers would be killed or injured in those first few days along with hundreds of thousands of civilians on the Korean Peninsula, according to Milley.
“The brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” the US army chief of staff said in the gathering.
Tensions have been running high between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs since US President Donald Trump warned to “totally destroy” North Korea during a speech to the latest UN General Assembly.
The US administration claims it prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but it also says that all options are on the table, including military ones.
US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen says Pyongyang and Washington have never been so close to using nuclear weapons against each other.
Washington insists that any future talks should be aimed at North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons, something Pyongyang rejects.
“Our condition is denuclearization,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this week. “Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea has been under a raft of crippling UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. Pyongyang firmly defends its weapons programs as a deterrent against potential aggression by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea. The North says the regular joint war games by the US, South Korea, and Japan, are rehearsals for war, and has repeatedly urged Seoul and Tokyo to disengage from such drills.
The US has substantial military presence in the region, including in South Korea and Japan.
Some US officials have said North Korea has been making significant advances in its nuclear weapons using the thermonuclear test and progress in its intercontinental missile systems. They have threatened the North with a military response unless it abandons its nuclear weapons program.