Speed Reads

North Korea

The Pentagon reportedly fears if it gives Trump military options for North Korea, he'll use them

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others in the White House are growing frustrated at what they see as the Pentagon's reluctance to provide President Trump with plans to attack North Korea, The New York Times reports, citing officials. McMaster reportedly argues that for Trump's threats of "fire and fury" to be credible, he has to have military options, from a "bloody nose" strike to attempting to take out Pyongyang's entire nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon, the Times says, fears "giving the president too many options ... could increase the odds that he will act."

Tensions have bubbled up with the news that Trump dropped his nomination of Victor Cha to be ambassador to South Korea because, Cha says, he pushed hard against a military strike against North Korea. But they've been simmering for months, the Times reports:

When North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July ... the National Security Council convened a conference call that included Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. After General McMaster left the room, Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson continued to speak, not realizing that other participants were still on the line. The officials familiar with the matter overheard them complaining about a series of meetings that the National Security Council had set up to consider options for North Korea — signs, Mr. Tillerson said, that it was becoming overly aggressive. [The New York Times]

Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have argued forcefully and repeatedly for diplomacy, warning that there are "few, if any, military options that would not provoke retaliation from North Korea," the Times reports. Both men denied slow-walking military plans, and Mattis and Tillerson reportedly support the idea of a preventative strike as a useful deterrent and because "they continue to be confident that, despite their anxieties, cooler heads with eventually prevail." Read more at The New York Times.