The top American commander in the Asia-Pacific region stressed Thursday that the U.S. does not have a “bloody nose strategy” in mind for North Korea, asserting that rumors of such a strategy were nothing more than media hype.
“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is,” Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. “The press have run with it.”
“I am charged with developing a range of options through the spectrum of violence and I’m ready to execute whatever the President and the national command authority directs me to do, but a bloody nose strategy is not contemplated,” he argued.
Harris explained that any use of military force against North Korea will not be quick or localized, remarking, “If we do anything along the kinetic spectrum of conflict, we have to be ready to do the whole thing.”
The so-called “bloody nose strategy” refers to a limited punitive strike on North Korea in response to a provocation.
The term appears to have first emerged in a thinly sourced Daily Telegraph article in December, but the term became much more prominent after a Wall Street Journal report claimed some leading members of President Donald Trump’s administration — including the president — were seriously considering a limited military strike on North Korea.
Numerous outlets spread rumors, which stirred fears across the Korean Peninsula. The Washington Post released a report claiming Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was passed over for the position of ambassador to South Korea due to conflicting views on the value of a bloody nose strike on North Korea.
The Post also published an opinion piece by Cha criticizing the logic behind the strategy.
In February, a senior administration official told lawmakers that no such strategy is being considered. The White House “made it very clear there is no bloody nose strategy for a strike against North Korea,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire told The Associated Press.
“We were told clearly by administration people about as high up as it gets that there is no such thing as a ‘bloody nose’ strategy, that they’ve never talked about, they’ve never considered it, they’ve never used that term, and it’s not something that that people ought to be talking about,” Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho told reporters.
“Bloody nose is and has always been a fabrication,” White House National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told BuzzFeed News.
At the moment, the Trump administration is putting greater emphasis on diplomacy, as Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss denuclearization. Pyongyang has yet to respond.
“As we go into this, I think we can’t be overly optimistic on outcomes. We’ll just have to see where it goes if and when we have the summit,” Harris told the Senate, adding, “North Korea remains our most urgent security threat in the region.”
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