State Department pours cold water on Trump's 'bloody nose' strike against North Korea

  • A high ranking State Department official poured cold water on reports that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea.
  • The Trump administration had reportedly been considering responding to the next North Korean missile or nuclear test with military force to embarrass and frighten Kim Jong Un.
  • The Trump administration has frequently reversed course on North Korea, declaring and retracting policies regularly.

A high ranking State Department official poured cold water on reports that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea on Thursday.

At a hearing to confirm Susan Thornton, the department’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said she had been told by the White House there was no bloody nose strategy.

When asked by Shaheen if this was true, Thornton said “that’s my understanding.”

“We were told clearly by administration people about as high up as it gets that there is no such thing as a bloody nose strategy,” Republican Senator James Risch of Indiana said during the hearing, confirming the meeting that Shaheen also attended.

The White House also hit back on reports of the bloody nose strategy on Thursday, as a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “Bloody nose is and has always been a fabrication.”

Reports of a “bloody nose” strike, or a US military attack in response to a North Korea provocation like a missile launch or nuclear test meant to humiliate and put fear in Kim Jong Un’s regime, have circulated since December.

If there is no “bloody nose” strategy, what was all that talk?

The rumours seemed to gain further traction when Trump’s administration reportedly rejected Victor Cha as US ambassador to South Korea because he didn’t support a strike on North Korea and wouldn’t say he would help evacuate US citizens from South Korea in the event of an attack.

The day following reports of Cha’s dismissal from the potential role, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post cautioning against such a strike. Cha had been in consideration for South Korea ambassador for more than a year. The sequence of events was widely interpreted as evidence that the Trump administration wanted to use force against North Korea.

But even though Thornton and the senators pushed back on that idea, it came from a White House that routinely changes course on North Korea.

Mixed messages, maybe on purpose

Upon returning from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence said the US would be open to talks with North Korea. The next day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it would be “too early” for such talks to occur.

Tillerson and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis have reportedly fought against the idea of a strike, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster favours changing the status quo by bloodying Kim’s nose.

Additionally, Mattis has frequently said that he provides a range of military options to the White House should they ever need one.

The flat-out denial of the existence of a contingency plan for a response to a North Korean provocation doesn’t square with the Pentagon’s formal duties, but may signal a new message being pushed by the State Department.

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