Army questions preparedness in face of N. Korean threat

Senior U.S. officials, noting North Korea's biological and chemical weapons as well as nuclear warheads and long range missiles, announced that U.S. ground forces may not, in the case of an emergency situation in North Korea, be able to arrive in South Korea in time.

"We could not get the Army units required for South Korea into South Korea on the time line required by the plan," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. "That's not to say they wouldn't get there. It's just that they wouldn't get there as quickly because of the commitments that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so certainly initially we would be especially dependent on the Navy and the Air Force."

If the proposed troop withdrawal in Iraq in 2011 were to occur, Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, extra ground troops could arrive in South Korea in time.

If North Korea were to collapse, a report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations issued last year said, 460,00 troops, or approximately three times the number deployed in Iraq, would be needed to maintain stability in the country.

Locating, safeguarding, and disposing of materials and stockpiles of the North's estimated six to eight nuclear weapons, four thousand tons of chemical weapons, and any biological weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, would be a high priority, especially for the United States," the report said.

North Korea is also believed to be in possession of ballistics missiles that would be capable of reaching western parts of the United States.