McMaster Says US Has "Four or Five" North Korea Scenarios, "Some Are Uglier Than Others"

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.


lucitanian TungstenBars Tue, 09/26/2017 - 11:53 Permalink

There is no military solution to the N. Korean situation.My suggestion: A meeting at senior ministerial level of N.Korea, S. Korea, Japan, China and Russia.Agenda:- A N. Korean halt to nuclear and missile deployment and tests over foreign territory.- A halt to joint exercises- A reduction (eventual elimination) of US forces/bases in the region (S.Korea/Japan)- A N/S Korea peace and non aggression treaty- A cooperation and development agreement between all four.And the US can go quietly back to the other side of the Pacific Ocean and carry on rotting from within by itself.

In reply to by TungstenBars

Shemp 4 Victory lucitanian Tue, 09/26/2017 - 11:59 Permalink

Clever what you did there, excluding the US from the meeting. Regrettably, it probably has to be done that way because the US refuses to engage in diplomacy.

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.

This statement shows the disconnected-from-reality environment in which the Vichy DC government operates. Engagement can not be kept in the diplomatic realm if it never entered the diplomatic realm. The State Department definition of "diplomacy" is threats and sanctions.

In reply to by lucitanian

in_xanadu_did_… Haus-Targaryen Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:40 Permalink

So, just curious what everyone thinks and perhaps someone knows the answer, but would the evacuation of Seoul be looked at as a provocation by NK?SK/USA decide to tell everyone to could only imagine that NK would assume that a strike was imminent...if they responded to the provocation, one wonders how China would respond.Evacuating Seoul might be harder than we think. Perhaps the ONLY answer to all of this is diplomacy.

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

tmosley Stan522 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:30 Permalink

We are negotiating in public. Both Kim and Trump have to convince their underlings that they are personally at risk, and each side is doing that while also signalling to the other side that they aren't actually going to go to war (each side is pacing each other, with Trump adopting NoKo style propoganda and Kim assigning catchy nicknames.Everything is going to be fine.

In reply to by Stan522

A. Boaty Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:21 Permalink

If you have nukes to test and you want someone else to take the blame, would you make a deal with NK? If you sell big weapons, wouldn't you want to keep fear alive?

shimmy Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:23 Permalink

Who cares about North Korea and a potential world war? Get back to the more important things like millionaire black athletes taking a knee and president pumpkin being triggered by it.

NoWayJose Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:26 Permalink

The touch-point to start the war is now established. The US will continue to fly ‘close’ until some 19 year old brainwashed Norkie fires an anti aircraft missile at the US planes. This will invite a big US response since “NK shot first”. Which will then cascade into escalation.

silverer NoWayJose Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:35 Permalink

The S Korean army is well trained, dedicated, and follows orders. You must be thinking of the US. Maybe one of the self obsessed and depressed sex change recruits, doting over how well the surgery went and not paying attention to what's going on. Or maybe a lunatic Jihad dude at the switch, pulling the typical "not really a terrorist" act.

In reply to by NoWayJose

silverer Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:30 Permalink

RE: South Korean citizens:

"...That danger [to S Korea] “is certainly taken into consideration in all our planning and war gaming"

Bullshit. Just like you took into consideration the citizens of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and so forth. You have a special phrase you use to not have "victory" denied to the overwhelming forces of the oh-so-wonderful and righteous US military: It's called "collateral damage". Maybe the ever so peaceful, tolerant, and "never harm the innocent" US planners should start your war by dropping leaflets over S Korea, instead of N Korea. It's obvious to me you owe them at least a "heads up" before they lose 15% of their population due to the next US military "game".

small axe silverer Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:51 Permalink

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. —60 Minutes (5/12/96)

In reply to by silverer