Washington: The United States is assessing military options in response to North Korea’s weapons programs, a White House foreign policy advisor confirmed Friday, saying another provocative test was a question of “when” rather than “if.”
As speculation mounted that Pyongyang is preparing to fire a trial nuke or missile on a major anniversary Saturday, the official said the United States was poised to deal with the security threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“Military options are already being assessed,” the adviser said on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, describing a fresh test as “possible.” There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
“They have telegraphed a bit, it’s no surprise that the anniversary is on Saturday, traditionally he has the big parade and rolls out his weapons and his mock weapons,” said the adviser.
“Unfortunately it’s not a new surprise for us, (North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un)continues to develop this program, he continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan. With the regime it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.”
The comments came after President Donald Trump told reporters that the “problem” of North Korea “will be taken care of.”
The ominous comments came the same day the US military dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb it possesses on Afghanistan, targeting a complex used by the Islamic State group.
And a US aircraft carrier and its naval strike group has been diverted to the Korean peninsula. Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.
Trump subsequently asked his advisers to give him all options for dealing with the nuclear-armed North.
But privately the White House acknowledges that striking North Korea would be a “much more complicated piece of business” than the Syria strike, in the words of a second senior administration official. Any US strike on North Korea could prompt retaliation against allies or US forces in South Korea or Japan.
The North is already under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and appears to see these programs as insurance against regime change.
Pence will visit South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, with North Korea high on the agenda in each capital. “We are fully committed to our security alliances, especially in the face of our evolving security challenges, as we’ve seen the nuclear threat of North Korea.”