After deploying dozens of Tomahawk missiles in Syria and the "mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan, Americans are wondering whether there is another possible target in the crosshairs of Donald Trump's administration: North Korea. Senior American intelligence officials told NBC News that the United States may consider preemptive strikes for North Korea if it knows the country is preparing to conduct a nuclear test. The officials informed NBC News that America has taken necessary measures just in case. Press Secretary Sean Spicer echoed the sentiment by telling reporters that Trump was giving North Korea advance notice with his statements.
Two destroyers able to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles have been positioned in the region. One of them, according to NBC News, is only three hundred miles away from a North Korean nuclear test site. In addition to this, bombers have also been stationed in Guam to thwart a North Korean attack. Apart from the conventional weapons being positioned against the country, an American strike could also involve special ground operations.
North Korea has stated that it will conduct a "merciless retaliatory strike" should America follow through with a preemptive strike. Reuters reported that although the Trump administration has clearly voiced its stance on North Korea's nuclear program, government officials are still more geared toward enacting harsher economic sanctions on the country instead of a full-blown military attack. China, North Korea's only major ally, has also urged for a more peaceful resolution amid the tension.
In a statement to Fox Business Network, Trump said that America is "sending an armada [to North Korea]" which is "very powerful." He also added, "We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you."
Reuters reported a statement from the official North Korean newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, which warned the United States against any use of force or aggression. The statement said, "Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theater but also in the U.S. mainland."
With all being said, not everyone is on board with the sentiment coming from the White House. Retired admiral James Stavridis told NBC News that he doesn't think "the [deploying nuclear weapons] is a good idea. I think it will only inflame the view from Pyongyang." He further stated, "I don't see any upside to it because the idea that we would use a nuclear weapon even against North Korea is highly unlikely."
With dozens of Tomahawk missiles deployed in Syria and the mother of all bombs dropped in Afghanistan, the Trump administration's foreign policy is rapidly gaining a reputation for unpredictable and escalated militaristic responses. For now, however, one can only hope the administration considers the unintended consequences of such a strike.