Global Independent Analytics

US Military Readiness Questioned Amid Korea Tensions

Middle East has taken resources away from planning and preparation to fight a “higher-end” combat force if a conflict erupted in another part of the world.

Brian Padden reporting for Voice of America: A controversial topic has been brought up by the U.S. military leaders, who are concerned about the U.S. ability to fight a conventional war against matching or relatively equal forces.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee that the military’s anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency focus on the Middle East has taken resources away from planning and preparation to fight a “higher-end” combat force if a conflict erupted in another part of the world.

“If that were to happen, I would have grave concerns about the readiness of our force to deal with that in a timely manner,” stated Milley.

Though primary rivals in terms of size and combat capabilities for  U.S. military remain China and Russia, the runner-up and perhaps the most obvious potential enemy - North Korea, spurs major concerns with escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula over the North’s nuclear threat.

As such, U.S., along with friendly South Korean forces, have increased have increased their readiness defense posture following recent Pyongyang’s nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in February.

To show North Korea what they'll be up against, in case of an armed conflict, Washington and Seoul are conducting largest joint exercises ever, involving 17,000 U.S. ground troops with an array of aircraft and naval support vehicles combined with 300,000-men strong South Korean army.

North Korea has called these annual drills rehearsals for an invasion and the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, has threatened to conduct pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korean and the U.S. forces.

“Early on in the conflict the North Koreans have an enormous incentive to use missiles and artillery to strike as many U.S. forces in the region, I think first as a war winning measure in order to slow down the rate of which the United States can flood forces into South Korea and up to Pyongyang, but I think also in the hope that the casualties will cause the United States to back off,” said Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

Though, the U.S. and South Korean militaries are considered to have superior conventional forces in the region that are better equipped, better trained and better fed than those in the impoverished North, the North’s answer to its conventional military disadvantage has been to develop nuclear weapons.

“North Korea’s concentration on the development of nuclear power and missiles shows that it recognizes that it is far behind South Korea’s conventional military capability,” said analyst Kim Dong-yub, with Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

The slogan for the U.S. forces in Korea is “ready to fight tonight” and part of this year’s exercises is preparing to counter the North’s nuclear threat.

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

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