The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who advise the President in military matters, recently sent a letter to Congressman and veteran Ted Lieu outlining how they believe the first days of a military conflict with North Korea would play out. Though President Trump has made grandiose threats of "fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen," his most trusted military minds believe hundreds of thousands could die within the first few days of an open conflict, which would most likely involve a ground invasion of North Korea.
The Joint Chiefs penned the letter in response to an inquiry by two House democrats who seek to determine what the cost of a war would be before the U.S. commits to it. Both the Congressmen and Joint Chiefs seem to agree: it would be a bad idea.
As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for U.S. troops and our allies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.
Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for U.S. troops and U.S. civilians in South Korea. It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk. The Joint Chiefs said they have no reason to believe North Korea would resist using their stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. 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 letter and statement have both been published as Donald Trump continues his tour of Asia, where he is expected to speak at length about the North Korean situation with local leaders such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In the past, President Trump has threatened that, if forced to defend the U.S. or its allies, he would "totally destroy" North Korea.
The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.
Rear Admiral Dumont, who wrote the Joint Chiefs' letter, made it clear that his and his colleagues' offices overwhelmingly preferred political and economic solutions to military ones. They believe the only way to neutralize North Korea's nuclear arsenal would be ground troops, most likely special forces, deployed into enemy territory. However, the threat to Seoul, South Korea's capital just 30 miles south of the 38th parallel, would be massive. The city of 25 million could face an immediate nuclear counterattack.
Shortly after the letter from the Joint Chiefs was released, Donald Trump answered questions at a press conference in Tokyo, where he unexpectedly declared he'd be open to meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un:
I would sit down with anybody. I don't think it's strength or weakness, I think sitting down with people is not a bad thing.
It's unclear whether Trump's statement was influenced by the letter or by the Congressmen's statements.
With 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and almost all developed nations aligned against it, it's hard to imagine North Korea wants a war any more than the rest of the world. Hopefully, while President Trump is in Asia, a closer examination of the situation might lead to a decrease in dangerous rhetoric and a de-escalation of tensions between our two nations.