North Korea Said Preparing
For War - Massing Troops
At Border
WASHINGTON -- North Korea continues to strengthen its military and has deployed most of its troops near the border to prepare for a war against South Korea, the U.S. military chief of staff says.
In a statement to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense on Tuesday, General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pyongyang has deployed the majority of its more than 1 million North Korean soldiers near the demilitarized zone and Seoul. He said the tensions from this deployment has been exacerbated by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile program.
"Despite its collapsed economy and struggle to feed its own population," Shelton said, "the North Korean government continues to pour resources into its military and to pursue a policy of confrontation with South Korea and its neighbors in the region."More than one million North Korean soldiers serve on active duty, the vast majority deployed within hours of the DMZ and South Korea's capital city, Seoul."
Shelton said the United States must take the North Korean threat very seriously. He said the Pentagon has deployed advanced tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery, attack helicopters and aircraft in Korea.
The chief of staff said the United States has also deployed the Patriot missile defense systems, improved surveillance capabilities and upgraded prepositioned stocks.
"These actions have significantly improved our defensive posture," Shelton said. "Still, the threat remains, and North Korea's substantial chemical and biological weapons capability, coupled with its continued pursuit of ballistic missile technology, will demand our attention for the foreseeable future."
The chief of staff was cautious in plans to develop a national missile defense system [NMD]. Shelton, referring to the repeated failures of a missile system being currently developed, indicated that it was too early to make a decision to supply the estimated $3.8 billion network.
"A threat is clearly emerging; however, the technology to hit a bullet with a bullet remains elusive," he said.. "We will continue to press hard to develop an effective NMD system, very mindful that the growing threat is placing a deployment decision in clearer context."
Shelton said the United States has also built up prepositioned stocks of weapons and supplies in the Middle East so U.S. forces can be deployed quickly to the Gulf region.