Nightly News   |  April 04, 2013

US prepares for the worst as North Korea postures

Experts say a ground war with North Korea would be devastating, with 700,000 North Korean soldiers aiming thousands of rockets and artillery at South Korea. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> again, it is hard to believe we have to talk about what a u.s. military response against north korea would look like, especially though in the event of a missile launch they are, as you might imagine, watching this closely at the pentagon. that's where jim miklaszewski is on duty for us tonight. jim, good evening.

>> good evening, brian. u.s. officials stressed tonight there is no sign that north korea is preparing for all out war. nevertheless, the u.s. and south korean militaries are prepared for the worst. two u.s. guided missile destroyers are already in position to shoot down any ballistic missiles launched by north korea . defense secretary chuck hagel warned this week that north korea 's threat to the nuclear attack cannot be ignored.

>> we take those threats seriously. we have to take those threats seriously.

>> reporter: in the unlikelihood of all out war, u.s. cruise missiles american bombers and south korean war planes would launch air strikes . north korea 's nuclear and ballistic missile facilities would be prime targets. any ground war would be devastating. 700,000 north korean soldiers are dug in along the demilitarized zone manning thousandses of rockets and long-range artillery aimed at the south. 20 million south koreans are well within range. a former u.s. commander in korea, retired general walter sharp fears massive numbers of civilians could be massacres.

>> we have great plans to take that artillery down quickly, but it's not fool-proof. there b will be thousands and thousands of deaths.

>> reporter: sharp is confident, however that even north korea 's unpredictable leader recognizes the cost of all out war.

>> we have to hope that kim jong un -- and i believe this -- understands that if he were to do an all out attack south his regime would be over.

>> reporter: u.s. military officials still fear there could be a miscalculation, a deadly skirmish between north korean and south korean troops and only hope it can be contained and that it stops there, brian.

>> still such a crazy idea that we are talking like this. but the planning goes on at the pentagon. jim miklaszewski , thanks.