World War 3: Donald Trump Clear to Strike North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump is not authorized to strike North Korea in the absence of an imminent threat, two of his Cabinet members said, but with the open threats of a strike by North Korea on US Soil that imminent threat exists right now.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the right to declare war lies with Congress unless there is a direct or imminent attack on the country, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, agreeing with lawmakers during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Tillerson noted, however, that the president’s final decision will be “fact-based” and depend on the circumstances.
Mattis offered a similar view.
“I believe under Article II, he has a responsibility, obviously, to protect the country and if there was not time, I could imagine him not consulting or consulting as he’s doing something along the lines, for example, of what we did at Shayrat Air Field in Syria when we struck that and the Congress was notified immediately,” he said. “But in this case of North Korea, it would be a direct imminent or actual attack on the United States I think Article II would apply.”
There was no clear answer to what an imminent threat would be, even when asked if it could be North Korea’s possession of a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S.
“I’m always reluctant to get into too many hypotheticals because the possession could be sitting in an underground, not-ready-to-be-used condition or the possession could be sitting upright on a TEL (transporter erector launcher), about to be launched,” Tillerson said. “So again, I think it would have to be fact-based and given consideration as to the circumstances around an imminent threat.”
Mattis added, “I fully agree with Secretary Tillerson. I think this is an area that a number of facts would have to bear on the problem in order to give you a complete answer.”
Trump has repeatedly raised the possibility of using military options to counter the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The communist regime has been accelerating its push to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the mainland U.S., with two long-range ballistic missile tests in July and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
A U.S. congressional report has identified seven possible military options the United States could use to handle the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
In the report sent to lawmakers Friday, the Congressional Research Service offers options ranging from enhanced containment and deterrence to a change of regime in Pyongyang and to a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.
It comes as tensions have escalated over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, with Washington vowing to use military action to counter the threat if necessary.
The other options are maintaining the military status quo; “denying (North Korea’s) acquisition of delivery systems capable of threatening the United States,” such as by shooting down all missiles the North test-fires; and eliminating the North’s long-range ballistic missiles and associated facilities and its nuclear facilities.
The report warns, however, that a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula could leave up to 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting. The estimate is based on the premise that North Korea uses only conventional munitions, not nuclear weapons. It also assumes that North Korean artillery is capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul.
“An escalation of a military conflict on the peninsula could affect upwards of 25 million people on either side of the border, including at least 100,000 U.S. citizens (some estimates range as high as 500,000),” the report says. “Even if (North Korea) uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting.”
North Korea could go further to launch missiles toward Japan, including U.S. military assets stationed there, according to the report.
A military conflict would also present other challenges, such as evacuating American noncombatants from the peninsula, and rebuilding the South Korean and North Korean economies in the aftermath.
The costs of a conventional war could reach up to 70 percent of South Korea’s annual gross domestic product, which was US$1.4 trillion last year, the report said, citing a 2010 study by the think tank RAND.