In a nuclear standoff with North Korea more than two decades ago—long before the reclusive government had atomic weapons that could threaten America—US officials planned for war. Declassified documents published Friday show the United States believed its military and South Korea's forces would "undoubtedly win" a conflict on the divided Korean Peninsula, with the understanding it would cost many casualties. The Pentagon estimated at the time that if war broke with Korea, some 52,000 American service members would be killed or wounded in the first three months. South Korean military casualties would total 490,000 in that time. And the number of North Korean and civilian lives claimed would be enormous.
Today, with North Korea almost able to directly threaten the US mainland with nuclear strikes, the possibility of conflict looms as it had in 1994. Twenty-three years ago, the stakes were different, reports the AP. At that time, President Bill Clinton's administration considered a cruise missile strike on a North Korean nuclear complex after it began defueling a reactor that could provide fissile material for bombs for the first time. Former President Jimmy Carter headed off a conflict, meeting with founding North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and helping seal an aid-for-disarmament agreement. The pact endured for nearly a decade, despite frequent disputes and periodic flare-ups on the peninsula. The AP has more.