President Donald Trump and his top national security advisers said Friday there are military options available for dealing with the North Korea crisis, despite some experts and former Trump allies saying that there are no good options for the region.
Speaking at Joint Base Andrews, the Air Force installation outside Washington, Trump declared that American military options were robust should they be required to respond to threats from Pyongyang.
“After seeing your capabilities and commitment here today, I am more confident than ever that our options in addressing this threat are both effective and overwhelming,” Trump said inside an airplane hanger, surrounded by US airmen and with a looming stealth bomber positioned behind him.
“America and our allies will never be intimidated,” Trump said. “We will defend our people, our nations, and our civilization, from all who dare to threaten our way of life. This includes the regime of North Korea, which has one again shown its utter contempt for its neighbors, and the entire world community.”
Ahead of his remarks, both national security adviser H.R. McMaster and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed during a White House briefing on the United Nations General Assembly that Trump did have military options to stop North Korea. Though they aren’t their top choices for the region, Haley and McMaster said, they are available to the President.
“For those who have said, and been commenting about a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” McMaster said. “Now it is not what we would prefer to do.”
Haley said that the UN has “strangled their economic situation at this point” but the results of that are going to “take a little time but it has always tried to take effect.”
“What we are seeing is they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless. And at that point there is not a whole lot the security council is going to be able to do from here when you have cut 90% of the trade and 30% of the oil,” she said. “So, having said that, I have no problem with kicking it to (Defense Secretary James) Mattis because I think he has plenty of options.”
Former top White House aide Steve Bannon told a reporter in August that there are no military solutions for North Korea.
“Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “There’s no military solution here, they got us.”
At the time, multiple other White House officials looked to refute Bannon’s view.
“We are prepared, we’re prepared militarily, we’re prepared with our allies to respond militarily,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters, speaking at the close of US-Japan security meetings with Mattis.
Mattis agreed, saying at the time that “there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities.”
North Korea has been the most perplexing foreign policy problem facing the Trump administration in its first year in office, with their now repeated missile tests and one nuclear test putting pressure on the President to have a plan should tensions escalate.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido Friday local time, the latest in a stream of missile tests that have looked to defy the international community.
The launch is the second to flyover Japan in less than a month, and the first since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and new United Nations sanctions on the country.
Trump has threatened “fire and fury” in response to North Korea’s threats.