US military quietly preparing for war with North Korea: Report

US military quietly preparing for war with North Korea: Report

WASHINGTON: Across the military, officers and troops are quietly preparing for a war they hope will not come, NYT has reported.

At Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month, a mix of 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters took off in an exercise that practiced moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets. Two days later, in the skies above Nevada, 119 soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division parachuted out of C-17 military cargo planes under cover of darkness in an exercise that simulated a foreign invasion.

Next month, at Army posts across the United States, more than 1,000 reserve soldiers will practice how to set up mobilization centers that move military forces overseas in a hurry. And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria. Others said the plan was strictly related to counterterrorism efforts.

In the world of the US military, where contingency planning is a mantra drummed into the psyche of every officer, the moves are ostensibly part of standard Defense Department training and troop rotations. But the scope and timing of the exercises suggest a renewed focus on getting the country's military prepared for what could be on the horizon with North Korea.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen Joseph F Dunford Jr, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both argue forcefully for using diplomacy to address Pyongyang nuclear ambitions. A war with North Korea, Mattis said in August, would be "catastrophic." Still, about two dozen current and former Pentagon officials and senior commanders said in interviews that the exercises largely reflected the military's response to orders from Mattis and service chiefs to be ready for any possible military action on the Korean Peninsula.

President Dobald Trump's words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Trump vowed to "totally destroy North Korea" if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, as "Rocket Man." In response, Kim said he would deploy the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history" against the United States, and described Trump as a "mentally deranged US dotard."

Trump's rhetoric has since cooled after a fresh attempt at detente between Pyongyang and Seoul. In an interview last week with The Wall Street Journal, Trump was quoted as saying, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un," despite their mutual public insults. But the president said Sunday that The Journal had misquoted him, and that he had actually said "I'd probably have" a good relationship if he wanted one.

A false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday that set off about 40 minutes of panic after a state emergency response employee mistakenly sent out a text alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack underscored Americans' anxiety about North Korea.