A day after President Donald Trump tweeted that “only one thing will work” when it comes to dealing with North Korea, a cabinet official said the president was referring to military action.
When asked about the president’s tweet on NBC’s Meet The Press on Oct. 8, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that military options are on the table.
“What the president is clearly telegraphing, and this should not be news to anybody, is that military options are on the table with North Korea. They absolutely are,” Mulvaney said.
President Trump, in a series of tweets the day before, criticized the failure of 25 years of U.S. policies to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat.
“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017
…hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017
Trump’s tweets came a day after Russian lawmakers said they were told during a visit to North Korea that the regime was planning another ballistic missile test, one capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Since coming to office, Trump has taken a hard-line stance on North Korea, making clear early that military options were a possibility, while simultaneously pressuring the North’s closest ally, China, to take action.
After months of diplomatic efforts, the president succeeded last month in having China agree to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea. China also took the unprecedented step of informing all banks to stop providing financial services to the North, as well as telling North Korean firms they have to shut down.
Experts have pointed to the devastating effects that a military conflict with North Korea would have.
An analysis by the 38 North, a project of the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, estimates that the North Korean regime has the ability to create as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries using nuclear weapons.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis said a military conflict with the North would be a “catastrophic war.”
“A conflict in North Korea, John, would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes,” Mattis told CBS News on May 28.
“Why do I say this? The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea,” Mattis said.
North Korea is estimated to have over 14,000 pieces of artillery and rocket launchers in its possession, many of which are strategically located in bunkers in the mountains on the border with South Korea.
With South Korea’s capital located just 35 miles from the border, the North could wreak devastation on the city, which has a population of over 25 million in its metropolitan area.
However, President Trump has said that a nuclear-armed North Korea is an unacceptable security risk to the United States and its allies. North Korea has already threatened to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. mainland.
Military and intelligence officials have said that the North still faces some technical obstacles in reaching the U.S. mainland, but believe it’s only a matter of time before those are resolved.
“Frankly, I think we should assume today that North Korea has that capability and has the will to use that capability,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. about the North’s ability to reach the United States with a nuclear weapon, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 26.
President Trump has vowed to protect America against such a threat.
“I can tell you one thing—you are protected … Nobody is going to mess with our people, nobody is going to play games, nobody is going to put our people in that kind of danger,” Trump said at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Sept. 23.
On Monday, the President reiterated his viewpoint that talks with the regime will not lead to denuclearization.
“Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work!,” Trump wrote on Twiter.
Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn't work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2017
Efforts by previous administrations have indeed not been able to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The North broke an agreement it had reached with the United States under then-President Bill Clinton. Under the deal the regime received aid as well as two light-water nuclear reactors for abandoning its nuclear weapons program.
In 2006, under then-president George W. Bush, the regime conducted its first underground nuclear test. It has conducted five more such tests since then, the most recent one in early September.
Dictator Kim Jong Un has significantly sped up the nuclear weapons program, which was started by his grandfather Kim Il Sung. The State Department estimates Kim has conducted 85 ballistic missile tests since coming to power.