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The US is ready to take North Korea's nukes by force

Picture: Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump’s national security adviser says the US is prepared to denuclearize North Korea against its will.
  • This would most likely require war, and it flies in the face of experts who say North Korea’s missiles are now so advanced that they should deter a US attack.
  • But Secretary of Defence James Mattis says he doubts North Korea’s claim that its missiles can reach the US with a nuclear warhead, and it looks as if the military isn’t ready to be counted out of the North Korean crisis.

H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has taken an incredibly bold stance on North Korea that points to the worst possible outcome: all-out war.

Asked by the BBC on Tuesday whether the US was committed to a peaceful resolution to the North Korean crisis, McMaster abandoned the usual formality of political speech.

“We’re not committed to a peaceful resolution,” McMaster said. “We’re committed to a resolution.”

He added: “We want the resolution to be peaceful, but as the president has said, all options are on the table. And we have to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

Denuclearization by force would equal a massive war, no way around it

Of the seven possible courses of action on the North Korean crisis prepared for Congress by its internal think tank, denuclearization of the country by force is one of the harshest and most dangerous.

In separate comments to “PBS NewsHour” on Monday, McMaster restated his belief that the chance of war with North Korea is growing every day.

“We have a very short amount of time to be able to address the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has dished out another revelation from the country’s top national security officials: that despite its claims, North Korea cannot yet hit the US with a nuclear weapon.

Though some experts have calculated that North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile could hit any part of the US with a 1,000-kilogram nuclear device, others, including Mattis, remain doubtful.

Essentially, the missile could probably lob a heavy nuclear warhead as far as the US, but its ability to evade missile defences and function properly once it gets there isn’t a sure thing.

Is the US headed for war?

Taken together, the comments from the US’s top military officials paint a picture of a country that still sees a slim window to use force against North Korea.

For decades, as North Korea’s nuclear might has grown, US and South Korean leaders have been deterred by Pyongyang’s massive offensive output.

But today, as North Korea perfects its missile program to the point where it could credibly threaten the US with a nuclear weapon, it seems as if the US’s military won’t allow a set of calculations on paper to tell it that its strength is no good here.

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