The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the U.S. might use force against North Korea as early as this fall. Did you hear that, Pyongyang? How about you, Beijing?
Several media outlets have reported that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said over the weekend that war with North Korea was not “unimaginable.” What has gone unreported is that he also suggested the administration is giving diplomacy only “a few more months.”
Dunford’s comments, sure to be heard in Beijing and Pyongyang, come as the Trump administration is hinting, with various degrees of subtlety, that it is willing to kill Kim Jong Un, the North Korean despot.
First, Dunford. “As I’ve told my counterparts, both friend and foe, it is not unimaginable to have military options to respond to North Korean nuclear capability,” he said at the Aspen Security Forum in a conversation with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “What’s unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado. That’s unimaginable to me. And so my job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Headline grabbing? Yes. Groundbreaking? Not really.
Many analysts and officials, especially after the July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, have said Kim cannot be allowed to develop the capability to nuke the American homeland.
Far more important is what Dunford said next. Mitchell mentioned that at another Aspen session James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said that Kim would never give up his nuclear weapons. Dunford responded this way:
“I think that has certainly been conventional wisdom. When Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson came in, in the intelligence communities the general assessment was, and it has been public, that Kim Jong Un views his existence as inextricably linked to nuclear weapons and China will never cooperate. So those are the two things that everybody has basically said. That’s conventional wisdom of North Korea. So where does that leave us? Leaves us what, to a military option.”