THE only way to locate and destroy with complete certainty all components of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is through a ground invasion.
That's the blunt assessment from the Pentagon is in response to a letter from two Democratic congressmen asking about casualty assessments in a conflict with North Korea.
Rear Admiral Michael J Dumont of the Joint Staff offered the assessment in response to a letter from congressmen Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
"The only way to 'locate and destroy - with complete certainty - all components of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs' is through a ground invasion," he wrote in response to Congressman Lieu's questions about a potential conflict.
The risks involved included a potential nuclear counter-attack by North Korea while US forces attempted to disable its "deeply buried, underground facilities", he said.
In a joint statement issued on Saturday, 15 Democratic politicians and one Republican - all military veterans - call the assessment that a ground invasion would be required to destroy the North's nuclear arsenal "deeply disturbing".
They say such an action could quickly result in hundreds of thousands, even millions of deaths.
In a statement with more than a dozen other military veterans turned congressmen, Mr Lieu, a Democrat, said the assessment was "deeply disturbing" and warned that a conflict "could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting."
"Their assessment underscores what we've known all along: there are no good military options for North Korea," the statement said.
US president Donald Trump has previously said that if forced to defend the US or its allies, he "will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
"The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk," Mr Lieu's joint statement said.
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