The only way to locate and destroy with complete certainty all components of North Korea's nuclear program is through a ground invasion, reports the AP, according to a blunt assessment from the Pentagon in response to a letter from two Democratic congressmen asking about casualty assessments. Rear Adm. Michael Dumont noted that the US is evaluating North Korea's ability to target heavily populated areas of South Korea with long-range artillery, rockets, and ballistic missiles. He also pointed out that Seoul is just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone. Casualties would differ depending on advance warning and the ability of US and South Korea forces to counter, he said. He also mentioned the possibility that chemical and biological weapons might be used by the North in case of a conflict.
Military officials would be happy to join "the intelligence community to address these issues in a classified briefing," he said. In a joint statement Saturday, 15 Democratic lawmakers and one Republican—all military veterans—called the assessment "deeply disturbing" and said such an action "could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting." "It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action," the lawmakers said. They also said the Trump administration "has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over." "With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm's way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling. The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk," they said. (Read more North Korean nuclear weapon program stories.)