Ex-CIA Official: ‘Military Options’ For North Korea ‘Are Increasing, Not Decreasing’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The Trump administration is reportedly increasingly considering military options to solve North Korea, according to a former CIA official.

“Military options are increasing, not decreasing” in Washington, D.C., Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea and a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the conservative Heritage Foundation, revealed Thursday at a public roundtable at The Korea Society in New York, UPI’s Elizabeth Shim reports.

“The probability of a military option is not zero,” he explained, adding that there are discussions inside the government about five options to “solve North Korea in 18 months.”

Klingner suggested that a major provocation, such as a far-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile test could push the administration to take a more forceful approach to the problem.

North Korea has recently threatened that it might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific or shoot down American military aircraft that fly too close. Klingner suggests that a “nuclear airburst” is “over the top” and, therefore, extremely unlikely.

“I’m pretty sure they’re going to do an ICBM test,” Klingner explained. North Korea has conducted two tests of its Hwasong-14 ICBM, which has the ability to strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. in theory. In both tests, the rogue regime fired the missiles on a lofted trajectory rather than the standard minimal energy trajectory.

In recent months, North Korea has twice fired intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan into the Pacific, and there are concerns that North Korea intends to do the same with its ICBM, which is meant to carry the thermonuclear warhead the North tested early last month.

While plans for the use of military force existed long before President Donald Trump took office, the military option has become much more commonplace in policy discussions.

The president has warned publicly that if North Korea forces America’s hand, the U.S. will “totally destroy” and “devastate” North Korea. White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, has made it clear that there is a “military option,” although it is certainly not the preferred choice. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said that the U.N. has done just about all it can and that she has no problem kicking North Korea to Mattis if that proves necessary.

The U.S., hesitant to engage North Korea militarily, is presently pursuing a strategy of maximum pressure to rein in North Korea. The regime has not engaged in any provocative behavior since the staged thermonuclear bomb test in September, but officials in the U.S., South Korea, and Japan are expecting a provocation sometime in the next few days. It is extremely difficult to predict with any real accuracy North Korean actions though.

If the U.S. moves to apply military force in Korea, the results could be “catastrophic.” Mattis has said before that if war breaks out on the peninsula, it will be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

“When I was in government, when we ran war games, the estimates were hundreds of thousands of casualties, and that was before we thought North Korea had nuclear weapons,” Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch and now a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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