The United States could soon be involved in a war with North Korea.
The Trump administration is readying a package of diplomatic and military moves against North Korea, including cyberattacks and increased surveillance and intelligence operations, after the nation’s sixth and largest nuclear test, senior White House and Pentagon officials told NBC News late last week.
The U.S. may also propose a U.N. Security Council resolution mandating the inspection of ships arriving or leaving the reclusive state, the officials told NBC News.
The expanded inspections would target vessels carrying missile parts and technology that North Korea exports as well as materials the country imports, a senior administration official said.
President Trump is also seriously considering adopting diplomatically risky sanctions on Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang and upgrading missile defense systems in the region, administration, the network reported.
In addition, the administration is not ruling out moving tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea should Seoul request them, a White House official said, though many consider such a move a nonstarter. It would break with nearly three decades of U.S. policy of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
The proposals form part of a more aggressive approach to North Korea being considered by Trump, according to nearly a dozen administration and defense officials and others aware of the strategy, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
It could also mean by Thursday; the country could be engaged in some sort of military operation.
Trump’s top national security advisers walked him through a range of options over lunch Sunday at the White House after North Korea’s latest test.
While the discussion included details of U.S. military capabilities, the core part of the strategy remains diplomacy with China and America’s allies and Trump suggested as much one week ago when he left open the possibility of military action against North Korea but said it’s not his preferred course.
“I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House.
China has also told administration officials that if the U.S. strikes North Korea first, Beijing would back Pyongyang, a senior military official said.
North Korea striking a U.S. target, however, “changes everything,” a senior administration official said.
One move reportedly under consideration is the deployment of land-based Aegis SM-3 missile interceptors like those used for missile defense operations in Europe, White House and defense officials said. Equipment for the additional four launchers for the anti-missile THAAD system in Seongju, South Korea, was moved into place on Wednesday, two defense officials said. These additional tubes will add to the two already there, giving the THAAD system full operational ability.
The president’s national security team convened a separate meeting on the issue in the Situation Room, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo joined remotely, the official said.
On Thursday, Tillerson was asked if he had any response to North Korea’s nuclear test.
“Oh, we’ll have one,” he said.