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Meet the Americans on the Front Line If North Korea Goes to War

If North Korea goes to war, they will be on the front line.

Some 37,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are on the ground as part of United States Forces Korea (USFK) and it will be up to them to help the South Koreans defend their country if the North Koreans attack.

U.S. Military in South Korea: 'Ready to Fight Tonight' 3:08

Established in 1957 after the bloody, three-year Korean War ended in a stalemate, the USFK has a mission to "defend the Republic of Korea (ROK) to maintain stability in Northeast Asia" and it's commanded by Army Gen. Vincent Brooks.

"As I have observed the men and women of this command, it is obvious that we have the right people, in the right place, and trained as a strong team," Brooks said on the site.

The son of one Army general and the brother of another, Brooks became a familiar face to many Americans during the Iraq War, when he was the Army's deputy director of operations and frequently gave media briefings.

Image: U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks
U.S. General Vincent Brooks , Commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea speaks during a press briefing. Jung Yeon-Je / AFP - Getty Images file

The first African-American to become Cadet First Captain at West Point, Brooks also saw action in Afghanistan and Kosovo, earning — among his two dozen or so medals — a couple Bronze Stars.

North Korea has been threatening to go through with a nuclear weapons test and has vowed to launch a "merciless retaliatory strike" if President Trump goes ahead and launches a preemptive strike to show Pyongyang he means business.

NBC News reported earlier that the U.S. has bombers ready to attack North Korea from Guam if necessary, and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier has been diverted to the Korean Peninsula. America has also positioned a pair of destroyers capable of launching Tomahawk missiles into the communist country at a moment's notice.

North Korea is not believed to have an intercontinental missile capable to hitting the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, but the Korean People's Army is more than a million strong with some 600,000 reserves and dwarfs that of South Korea, which is half the size.

Image: North Korean soldiers
North Korean soldiers look south at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) 34 miles north of Seoul. Lee Jae-Won / Reuters - File

The flashpoint for any conflict would be the Demilitarized Zone of DMZ, a 160-mile long and 2.5-mile wide strip of land that stretches across the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel and separates North Korea from South Korea. It is one of the most heavily militarized pieces of real estate in the world.

Should Kim Jong Un send his soldiers over the DMZ, they would be met by an American military machine with a lethal arsenal of conventional weapons, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

It consists of, among other things:

  • 140 M1A1 tanks
  • 170 Bradley armored vehicles
  • 30 150mm self-propelled howitzers
  • 30 MRLs (multiple rocket launchers)
  • A wide range of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles
  • 70 AH-64 helicopters

USFK also has at its command 100 aircraft, including 70 F-16 fighter planes, 20 A-10 anti-tank attack planes, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and transport aircraft capable of launching "all-weather attacks."

In January, as tensions with North Korea were rising, the Pentagon announced it was deploying 24 Apache attack helicopters to the Suwon Air Base, which is about 70 miles south of Seoul, the capital of South Korea.