- KCNA via REUTERS
- A former director of the CIA’s Korea division who just returned from Seoul says officials there have “very strong concerns” about the US attacking North Korea.
- Recent reports have suggested President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a strike.
- The former CIA agent said some people thought the US could hit two or three targets that North Korea wouldn’t launch a full war over.
A former chief of the CIA’s Korea division who recently returned from South Korea says he found widespread worry that the US is gearing up for a military strike against North Korea.
“Seoul has very strong concerns about the potential for a US ‘preventive attack’ on North Korea,” the former chief, Bruce Klingner, said.
Klingner’s comments follow recent reports suggesting the US is considering a “bloody nose” strike – highly visible but materially limited – on North Korea to make a statement, and that President Donald Trump’s secretaries of state and defense are the key figures holding him back.
Klingner seemed to pick up on a fear in Seoul of a larger attack.
“Some are suggesting that the US is thinking of hitting two or three targets and that North Korea would likely respond proportionately,” Klingner said. “Not the all-out artillery barrage on Seoul.”
To attack North Korea in such a way that it would notice but result in a response short of all-out war would require meticulous planning, flawless execution, and a healthy dose of luck, as no one can say with certainty how the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, would react.
Experts have panned the idea of a strike on North Korea with near unanimity, but the Trump administration has consistently touted the use of force as a potential tool.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser who is often characterized as the hawkish voice on North Korea in the president’s inner circle, reportedly said on Tuesday that “the danger is growing” from North Korea’s “grave threat” to the US.
McMaster has expressed through his talks and writing that he believes using military force against the US’s weaker enemies could cow them and show them who is in charge.
But with the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, starting next month and lasting through mid-March, it seems unlikely the US would decide to strike now.