The Cable

As Trump Threatens to ‘Destroy’ North Korea, Air Force Says It’s ‘Ready to Fight’

General says the bombers are ready.

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Hours after President Donald Trump told the United Nations that the U.S. might have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if the regime didn’t halt its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, U.S. generals said they were ready for whatever option the president chooses.

“We’re ready to fight tonight,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, told reporters at an Air Force conference in Washington on Monday. “We don’t have to spin up, we’re ready.”

Rand, who is responsible for the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber wings, underscored that his units around the globe were all ready to act, not just those in the Pacific.

“Our role is to be a continuous bomber presence and have the ability to launch bombers from a long way away in a very short period of time,” he said

President Trump has been using increasingly harsh rhetoric to describe his plans for dealing with the regime in Pyongyang, even as diplomatic efforts continue.

Earlier this week, Mattis revealed that he has drawn up military options for striking North Korea that would not put the South Korean capital of Seoul at risk, but declined to elaborate further. Seoul is only 35 miles from the border, and thousands of North Korean artillery pieces are dug deep into granite hillsides, ready to pour tens of thousands of shells on the capital within minutes.

Addressing the Air Force conference on Tuesday, service chief Gen. David Goldfein echoed Mattis, confirming the Pentagon has war plans ready for North Korea, should the need arise. But any options, he said, “are all in support of the pressure campaign that is being led by Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson.”

Speaking before a meeting with the Romanian defense minister at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was asked about Trump’s comments at the U.N. that “rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” referring to the North Korean leader by the nickname he coined on Twitter over the weekend.

“We are dealing with the North Korea situation through the international process and we will continue to do so,” Mattis said. “Secretary Tillerson is leading the effort and we will hopefully get this resolved through diplomatic means.”

 

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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