US Military Preparing Military Options, Pushing for Diplomacy With North Korea

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander, US Forces Korea, at Osan AB, South Korea, Aug. 13, 2017. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The US is pushing for a diplomatic solution to heightened tensions with North Korea, but it is preparing “viable military options” to be used only if diplomatic and economic pressure fails, the top US uniformed officer said during a Monday visit to South Korea.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford, in a joint statement with South Korean President Moon Jae-In, said the military’s priority “is to support our government’s efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through diplomatic and economic pressure,” according to a translation of the statement in The New York Times.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote a combined op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, saying that US diplomatic efforts are focused on the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” of North Korea. The previous administration’s policy of “strategic patience” expedited the threat, and has been replaced with a policy of “strategic accountability,” the Secretaries wrote.

The US military has partly installed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers on the Peninsula, but South Korea halted the deployment in June until an environmental impact assessment is complete. Talks are currently underway to complete the installation. The US military is also conducting joint exercises as “defensive preparation” against the threat of military actions against the US and allies in the region, the Secretaries write.

“We will say again here: Any attack will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an effective and overwhelming response,” the Secretaries write.

Dunford, after his visit to Seoul, arrived in Beijing for his first visit to China as Chairman. The trip is to support Tillerson’s diplomatic and economic push to deter North Korea. Dunford is being hosted by his counterpart Gen. Fang Fenghui, and will also “continue to develop our military-to-military relationships,” according to a Pentagon release.