General Vincent Brooks made it overwhelmingly clear on 60 Minutes on Sunday that the U.S. is ready at a second’s notice to aggressively and overwhelmingly respond to any serious North Korean action.
General Vincent Brooks said “it is literally a matter of a decision from North Korea to say ‘go,’ ” and the United States would be at the ready to defend against any missile attacks.
In an interview with CBS’ Bill Whitaker on 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, Brooks said any response to missiles launched by North Korea – who has been testing missiles left and right this year – would be “effective and overwhelming.”
“What it takes to go from the condition we’re in at this moment to hostilities again is literally the matter of a decision on North Korea’s side to say fire,” Brooks said.
“If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, it will be met with an effective and overwhelming response,” Brooks added. “Now they can take it to the bank. We make that same point to our allies and partners, like the Republic of Korea and like Japan.”
North Korea has said it has at least 10 nuclear weapons, and that its intercontinental missiles could carry a ballistic missile, according to leader Kim Jong Un; the country has already tested multiple missiles this year, including the most recent four surface-to-ship missiles last week, making 16 missiles tested this year.
CBS visited Brooks at Guard Post 4, a citadel near the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone, which separates North Korea and South Korea. Brooks is the current commander of the United States Forces Korea, United Nations Command and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
Notably, CBS was the first American news crew that was allowed in.
CBS interviewed a recent defector from North Korea, Thae Yong-ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London before he defected in August. A defector of his ranking is “extremely rare.”
Yong-ho told CBS that Kim Jong Un’s “capability to wreak harm, not only to America but also South Korea and the world, should not be underestimated.”
Tensions run high in the 2.5-mile-wide DMZ, where U.S. troops are sandwiched between North and South Korea. The rift between the countries has been ongoing since 1950 – which makes it the longest war on paper since World War II.
While in the DMZ, CBS observed how it felt like a “Cold War theme park.” There is a fake village on the North Korean side of the zone, where propaganda is blasted through loudspeakers.
On the South Korean side, tourists cram onto an observation deck to see it all.
While that feeling might be very surreal, the reality is that there are 10,000 artillery pieces that observes can’t see on the North Korean side, aimed at Seoul, the South Korean capital that is only 30 miles away from the DMZ. War planners estimate that 500,000 people could be killed in a second Korean War.
“This is truly one of those places where the best way to prevent a war is being ready for a war,” said Air Force General James Slife.
Slife is the Chief of Staff for the United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea at Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, South Korea.
He spoke to CBS at Osan Air Base, very close to Seoul, where Korean airmen and Americans monitor all activity north of the DMZ.
“With the development of ballistic missiles, with the development of nuclear weapons, things here have a tension that you can feel in the air,” Slife said.