U.S. Navy Chief: Military Option on North Korea ‘Not Empty Words’

Friday, December 15, 2017
By Paul Martin

15 Dec 2017

America’s chief of naval operations said in an interview published Friday that U.S. options for a military response to North Korea’s routine belligerence are not “empty words” and that the military is “prepared” to act against Pyongyang if necessary.

Adm. John M. Richardson emphasized in an exclusive interview with South Korean outlet Yonhap that the U.S. military must be prepared to act in the event that diplomacy fails. The remarks follow an invitation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the communist Kim regime to speak “without precondition,” leaving many media outlets wondering whether the Trump administration had changed its more hardline policy towards the regime.

“To have a legitimate deterrence, I think, you have to have legitimate, I guess, options. So we’re prepared,” Richardson told Yonhap, asserting that President Donald Trump’s warnings that the U.S. is ready for a military confrontation if necessary are not “empty words.”

Richardson noted that diplomacy is always the preferable route and added:

But we in the military understand that we have to be prepared for any kind of increasing capability that could come from the North, that would threaten us from the North, so that we could prevail and that we provide a firm backstop to the diplomatic and economic efforts that are going on the lead.

The remarks do not directly contract Tillerson, as Richardson asserted that military action would be a last and undesirable resort for Washington. On Tuesday, Tillerson told an audience at the Atlantic Council, “We’ve said from the diplomatic side, we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition.”

“Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want,” he continued. “Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a roadmap of what we might be willing to work towards.”

His use of the phrase “without precondition” startled many who noted that the official White House line did not accept the possibility of such a discussion and that Trump himself had described Tillerson’s work on North Korea as a “waste of time.” Tillerson did note one precondition, however: that North Korea cease to engage in military provocations – typically intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, but sometimes nuclear weapon tests – for an extended period of time as a show of goodwill.

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