Updated 11:48 PM EDT, Sat, Mar 28, 2020

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US Army to Deploy More Firepower to South Korea as Threat of War Remains

More firepower

(Photo : US Army) U.S. Army M1-A2SEP Abrams tanks along the DMZ in South Korea.

The U.S. Army is likely to dramatically increase the firepower of its troops in South Korea despite Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, not committing to a decision to increase the number of troops in that country.

Gen. Milley would rather commit more army troops to current "hot" trouble spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan where the U.S. is already engaged in military operations, he told members of the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee.

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He showed some hesitation, however, when asked if more troops are needed in South Korea in the face of North Korea stubborn refusal to discontinue both its nuclear weapons development program, and its ballistic missile tests aimed at developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the continental United States.

"That is a very difficult question full of all kinds of nuances. I can't give you a yes or a no," said Gen. Milley in response to a question about adding more men to the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) deployed to South Korea

There are over 38,000 servicemen and women in EUSA, whose most powerful fighting force is the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division and its 10,000 men deployed close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea.

Gen. Milley estimates the situation in Korea calls for a forward presence with the right capacity to respond to a belligerent North Korea, and this may not mean more troops but more firepower.

His veiled hint at an impending increase in U.S. firepower might indicate re-arming troops already in South Korea with more advanced weapons and equipment that boost their combat capabilities.

The move towards enhanced firepower made news late last month when the army announced its plan to move pre-positioned stock stationed in South Korea back to the continental United States so as to outfit an armored brigade combat team (ABCT).

Gen. Milley said the move is part of a bigger effort to rebalance brigade combat teams (BCTs) to emphasize the need for heavy, armored BCTs over lighter infantry BCTs. The army is converting an infantry brigade combat team to create a 15th ABCT and will organize the 16th into an ABCT using the pre-positioned stock from South Korea.

Gen. Milley said after years of conducting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the army is realizing it must restructure and rebalance the force to be able to operate in more contested environments against Russia and China. 

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