Dems ask Mattis: How many people would die in war with North Korea

A pair of Democratic lawmakers wants Defense Secretary James Mattis to detail how many casualties the Pentagon expects in the event of war with North Korea.

“Before this administration leads America down the dark, bloody and uncertain path of war with North Korea, the American people and their representatives in Congress deserve answers,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) wrote Tuesday in a letter to Mattis.

The letter comes as U.S.-North Korean tensions continue ratcheting up. On Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister said President Trump’s recent comments on the country amount to a “declaration of war” that would justify North Korea shooting down a U.S. bomber.

The minister’s comment came after Trump said in his United Nations speech last week that the United States will “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary and tweeted that leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer.”

{mosads}Mattis has said that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.” But he also said earlier this month, without any elaboration, that the United States has military options that would not put South Korean capital Seoul at risk.

Officials and military experts have long said millions could die in a war between the United States and North Korea. Up to 100,000 people could die in the first days of the conflict if North Korea attacked Seoul, according to a 2005 war game published by The Atlantic.

In their letter, Lieu and Gallego said briefings on North Korea have not included analysis on expected casualties in the event of war.

“Despite being member of the House Foreign Affairs and House Armed Services Committees who have participated in classified briefings and hearing on the North Korean threat, we have not heard detailed analysis of expected U.S. or allies force casualties, expected civilian casualties, what plans exist for the aftermath of a strike — including continuity of the South Korean government, or how such assessments have factored into the military options presented to the president,” they wrote.

They asked Mattis for answers within 30 days on the best- and worst-case estimates for casualties of American troops and civilians in South Korea, Japan and Guam, as well as of non-U.S. troops and civilians in those places.

They also asked whether North Korea would be able to retaliate with nuclear or chemical weapons after an attack, whether a ground invasion would be necessary to locate and destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear and chemical weapons, whether the United States has a plan for humanitarian aid to South Korea and Japan in such a war, what the post-war plan would be if the United States wins and what the United States would do if Russia or China opposes U.S. military force in North Korea.

“To be clear, we believe it is wrong to use military force without first exhausting all other options, including diplomacy. We also believe it would be unconstitutional for the administration to start a war with North Korea without congressional authorization,” they wrote. “As veterans, we know better than most how irresponsible it is to use military force without developing a strategy for how to win the fight and safeguard the interests of the United States in its aftermath.”

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