As tensions between North Korea and the U.S. continue to escalate with every Trump tweet and subsequent response by Kim Jong-Un, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the U.S. has prepared "four or five different scenarios" for how the crisis with North Korea will be resolved, adding ominously that “some are uglier than others."
McMaster declined to comment on the extent to which North Korea’s deeply-buried nuclear program was vulnerable to U.S. military strikes -- an assessment made of Iran before the 2015 framework agreement designed to stop its nuclear program.
He acknowledged that every military option assumed a reaction from North Korea that endangered South Korean citizens, adding it’s “foremost in our minds.” That danger “is certainly taken into consideration in all our planning and war gaming, table-top exercise efforts,” McMaster said.
Still, while McMaster said the threat from Pyongyang is “much further advanced” than anticipated and the Pentagon said the president has a “deep arsenal” to draw upon if needed, Bloomberg quoted U.S. officials who dismissed North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s comment that President Donald Trump’s warnings to Pyongyang at the United Nations amounted to a declaration of war.
That said, both governments have said “all options” are on the table in dealing with the tensions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking in India on Tuesday, said the U.S. wants to keep engagement with North Korea in the diplomatic realm as long as possible. But on Monday Ri escalated tensions with his remark that North Korea would be within its rights to shoot down U.S. warplanes flying in international airspace. That startled markets, coming just days after the Pentagon sent planes near North Korea’s border.
Additionally, as reported this morning, North Korea boosted defenses on its eastern coastline after the US flew B-1B Lancer bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, just off the coast of North Korea - the farthest north of the demilitarized zone any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast this century, the Pentagon said. North Korea was surprised by the bombers, which weren’t caught by its radar, Yonhap News reported, citing the head of the intelligence committee of South Korea’s parliament.
The Pentagon said its most recent bomber and fighter exercises were meant to underscore “the seriousness with which we take DPRK’s reckless behavior,” White said last week, using the initials for North Korea’s formal name. “This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options.”
The question of course, is how would Pyongyang respond to any potential strike: military analysts have said any conflict between the U.S. and North Korea would risk a devastating attack by Pyongyang on the South Korean capital Seoul.
“There’s not a ‘precision strike’ that solves the problem,” McMaster said at an event in Washington hosted by the Institute for the Study of War. “There’s not a military blockade that can solve the problem. What we hope to do is avoid war, but we cannot discount that possibility.”
Meanwhile, Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said assertiveness from both sides would only increase the risk of confrontation. “We have witnessed a lot of saber rattling recently on the Korean peninsula,” he said. “We hope the U.S. and DPRK politicians can realize that resorting to military means will never be a viable way out for this issue.”
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In conclusion, Bloomberg reminds us that in 1969, President Richard Nixon considered tactical nuclear strikes after North Korea shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane, according to documents declassified in 2010 and published by the National Security Archive.