The U.S. Army has reportedly stepped up training efforts for North Korea’s massive network of underground tunnels amid ongoing tension and threats of a military conflict from both nations. The Army is training thousands of soldiers while the Pentagon is buying up gear that would specifically help troops fight in the North’s tunnels, NPR reported Tuesday morning citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The well-documented tunnel system, possibly around 5,000 of them, in the isolationist state reportedly contains not only pathways for troops across the demilitarized zone but also artillery and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. One such tunnel was discovered a mere 32 miles away from Seoul, the South’s capital city.
The tunnels, dubbed Tunnels of Aggression, were first discovered in 1974 after North Korean defectors warned the South of their existence. The defectors claimed North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung had ordered the tunnels built in an effort to possibly invade the South with one tunnel supposedly capable of funneling 30,000 troops per hour, according to The New York Times.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are reportedly pushing for diplomacy, while national security adviser H.R. McMaster is encouraging a “bloody nose” strategy involving a minor military strike rather than a full-out conflict.