America’s highest-ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., said that it should be assumed that North Korea has the ability to strike the United States. with a nuclear-armed missile.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 26, Gen. Dunford said it is only a matter of time before the North Korean regime solves the final technical hurdles in its nuclear and missile programs.
“Frankly, I think we should assume today that North Korea has that capability and has the will to use that capability,” Dunford said.
“Whether it’s three months, or six months or 18 months, it is soon. And we ought to conduct ourselves as though it’s just a matter of time and a matter of a very short time before North Korea has that capability.”
North Korea has conducted six underground nuclear tests so far, and has threatened to conduct its next test by exploding a nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean.
President Donald Trump warned North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, against such action in a speech in Alabama last Friday, warning that the radioactive fallout of such a test would cause tremendous health problems.
Gen. Dunford said that the fallout of such a test would be similar to what happened with the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986 when a nuclear reactor at the power plant exploded. Thousands were killed and a large area was contaminated with radioactivity.
“We had significant health challenges for many years and obviously the loss of life,” Dunford said.
Working With China
China announced on Thursday that it gave North Korean companies operating in its country 120 days to close down.
China’s central bank had also recently told banks to implement the United Nations sanctions against North Korea. Banks were told to deny services to new North Korean customers, and to wind down loans to existing North Korean customers.
The moves came after months of pressure from the Trump administration on China to take action against North Korea. China is a vital lifeline for the communist regime and its biggest trading partner.
China also started implementing sanctions from a U.N. Security Council resolution which was passed earlier this month which prohibits the sale of natural gas and limits the amount of oil that can be sold to the North.
The new sanctions came after North Korea conducted a sixth underground nuclear test. The Trump administration announced additional sanctions mainly focused on businesses and financial institutions doing business with the North.
Purpose of North Korea’s Nuclear Program
North Korean state media published several articles this week threatening that its state nuclear program was near completion, and that under no circumstances would it end it.
Gen. Dunford said that the nuclear program are “linked to survival in North Korea.” The Kim regime sees it as a vital tool to remain in power.
He said that while military force is an option for the U.S. it would be devastating. And instead the United States has worked tirelessly to push China to put pressure on the North. According to Dunford there is still hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict if the new sanctions work.
However, Dunford said we are “also making it clear there are military options available to the President.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis said earlier this month that the United States is capable of completely destroying North Korea in the scenario of an armed conflict.
In response to the increased threat from North Korea, the United States is building up its missile defense systems.
The U.S. military successfully tested a missile defense system, which intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii.
President Trump said in his speech in Alabama that the United States is spending billions to improve its missile defense systems. He thanked the people of Huntsville, Alabama, where a large amount of defense equipment is manufactured.
“How important are those words now, when you hear missile defense,” Trump said.