When North Korea launched its Hwasong-15 ICBM last week, Donald Trump responded with the words, ‘We will take care of it’, later adding, ‘It is a situation we will handle.’ The latest missile launch followed what had seemed like a pause in North Korea’s testing program, which has involved 23 missile launches since February.
The US president’s words were interpreted by some as another piece of braggadocio. But to me it seemed they were full of menace. I visited Washington shortly before Trump’s recent Asian odyssey. The talk around town was of early phases of military mobilization. The US’s three-carrier battlegroup exercises off the Korean coastline last month, together with this week’s large-scale air exercises with South Korea, seem consistent with that view.
The US – South Korea exercises include half a dozen American F-22 and F-35A aircraft along with two B-1B Lancer bombers, all capable of penetrating North Korean air defenses. South Korea has responded to the Hwasong-15 test with its own missile firings involving land-based, air and naval assets. These are all heavy preemption capabilities. The talk in Washington is about the US readying itself to be in a fight around the northern spring. Even as sober a strategic judge as Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, puts the possibility of war at 50/50. http://nationalinterest.org/