The United States would dispatch 690,000 troops and 2,000 warplanes if war broke out on the Korean peninsula, according to a South Korean defense policy paper released Friday.
The brief revealed South Korean efforts to redefine its 50-year stalemate with the communist North and readjust its alliance with the United States.
The commitment of U.S. troops in the event of war appears aimed at easing concerns that Washington is using U.S. troops in South Korea as a rapid deployment force, which could create a vacuum in the world’s last remaining Cold War flashpoint.
“The reinforcement plan reflects a strong U.S. commitment to defending South Korea,” the memo said.
Pentagon says support depends on circumstances
A spokesman for the Defense Department , Lt. Cmdr. Greg Hicks, said he could not speak to the specific numbers in the report, but he said the size of any U.S. deployment in the event of a Korean conflict would depend on the nature of the conflict.
The U.S. military total force strength worldwide is about 3 million, according to the Defense Department.
Washington and its allies have been trying to end the North’s nuclear weapons programs through multinational disarmament talks.
North Korea, which is already armed with large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, is resisting U.S. pressure to give up its nuclear weapons programs. Three rounds of six-nation talks aimed at ending the programs produced no breakthroughs.
North Korea, which accuses the United States and South Korea of preparing to invade over its nuclear weapons programs, has added more artillery pieces and missiles to its Korean People’s Army, already the world’s fifth-largest, it said. The number of North Korean troops remained unchanged at 1.17 million.
Later Friday, North Korea’ state-run media quoted a military officer promising severe retaliation if war broke out.
“If the U.S. imperialists ignite flames of war, we will first of all strike all bases of U.S. imperialist aggressors and turn them into a sea of fire,” North Korea’s Central Radio quoted the officer, Hur Ryong, as saying, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Hur was also quoted as saying the North Korean military would “thoroughly incinerate the aggressor elements that collude with the U.S. imperialists,” an apparent reference to South Korea and Japan, both of which host U.S. military bases.
Hur made his comment Wednesday during a debate in Pyongyang on leader Kim Jong Il’s “army-first” policy, which stresses military strength.
North no longer ‘main’ enemy
Seoul and Washington forged their alliance during the 1950-53 Korean War, when U.S. troops led U.N. forces to defend South Korea from communist invaders. The war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war.
The brief, updated for the first time in four years, removes 10-year-old references to North Korea being the South’s “main enemy,” although it still calls the North a “direct military threat.”
The removal of the “main enemy” term is largely symbolic, but it reflects South Korea’s efforts at fostering reconciliation with North Korea.