A U.S. admiral said Thursday the situation in Korea is becoming increasingly dangerous as the North begins to advance its weapons program and develop a long-range nuclear missile.
“The crisis on the Korean Peninsula is real,” Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, adding, “It’s the worst I have ever seen.”
The Daily Caller reports that Pyongyang’s aggressive rhetoric is increasingly backed up by advancements in its weapons program. This includes ballistic missiles of various ranges, nuclear bombs, chemical and biological weapons, and conventional systems, such as heavy artillery. Harris told the senators that there is no doubt in his mind that Kim Jong Un’s goal is to develop a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking U.S. targets.
“There is some doubt or questions within the intelligence community whether he has the capability today or whether he will soon have that capability,” Harris explained. “But, I have to assume that he has it … We have to assume the capability is real. We know what his intentions are, and he’s moving towards them.”
“So, it’s not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of when?” Arizona Senator John McCain asked the admiral.
“It is clearly a matter of when,” Harris responded, “Thomas Edison tried a thousand times before he got the light bulb to work. Kim Jong Un is going to continue to try until he gets his ICBMs to work.”
In his New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un revealed that his country is close to testing an ICBM. “We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
During a large scale military parade in mid-April, North Korea unveiled what appear to be several solid-fueled, canister-launched ICBMs, revealing North Korea’s intended trajectory. North Korea has demonstrated that the weapons of war necessary for a regional conflict are reliable, so the military is now testing new missile systems, such as the KN-15 intermediate-range ballistic missile tested in February or the KN-17 anti-ship ballistic missile tested twice this month.
The Trump administration has been prepping to deescalate the situation, starting with a meeting of all 100 senators that took place at the White House on Wednesday.
The initial response from the administration looks to focus on tougher sanctions, as well as working with countries, such as China, to help ease the tensions in the region. Although, the administration has said that all options are on the table, including military action.
The U.S. response is “event driven,” a senior official told reporters Wednesday.
The U.S. strategy when it comes to addressing the threat posed by North Korea is to”bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not to his knees,” Harris explained, further stating that “all options are on the table.” The U.S. is prepared for a possible crisis in Korea triggered by the North’s aggressive behavior, Harris said, adding, “I have the forces to fight tonight if necessary.”