Following up on yesterday’s comments by Ambassador Nikki Haley that she is perfectly happy to give up on North Korea and hand the matter over to the Pentagon to solve, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that there continue to exist military options for attacking North Korea.
At the same time, Mattis appeared unwilling to discuss the matter, saying he “will not go into details” about US military options and that “I don’t want to go into that.” Other US officials have been eager to talk up the existence of myriad military options.
So exactly what those options are goes unstated, though realistically, it doesn’t matter too much. Analysts have consistently agreed that there is no such thing as a limited war with North Korea, and a limited attack is going to rapidly escalate out of control at any rate. This means all options boil down to one, disastrous option, a war in which millions would be killed.
One detail Mattis did offer, however, was on the question of trying to shoot down North Korean test missiles, saying there is no need “yet” to try to do so. There has been a lot of speculation recently that missiles fired over Japan could be targeted.
Such an attempt is hugely risky, however, as the massively expensive missile interceptors haven’t got the best track record, even in tests under optimal circumstances. A failed shoot-down would be a huge embarrassment for the US, and one they clearly don’t want to risk at this point.