WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has no strategy for a pre-emptive “bloody nose” strike against North Korea, according to two lawmakers and a Trump administration official.
In response to reports that the administration is considering limited, pre-emptive attacks to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear program, critics have said the president lacks the authority for such an attack and that it would spark the war it’s meant to avoid.
Republican Sen. Jim Risch and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, said Thursday they and other senators had been told by senior White House officials on Wednesday that there was no such strategy. Neither senator identified the officials.
The White House had “made it very clear there is no bloody nose strategy for a strike against North Korea,” Shaheen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was considering the nomination of Susan Thornton, Trump’s choice to be the top diplomat for East Asia.
Thornton, currently the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, affirmed that was her understanding.
“We were told clearly by administration people, about as high up as it gets, that there is no such thing as a bloody nose strategy, they’ve never talked about [it], they’ve never considered it, they’ve never used that term, and it’s not something that people ought to be talking about,” said Risch, of Idaho.
Thornton confirmed the administration’s policy remains one of “maximum pressure” through economic sanctions to get North Korea to negotiate on eliminating up its nuclear weapons. Still, the U.S. is keeping military options on the table.
“Our preference is to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through a diplomatic settlement, but we will reach this goal one way or another,” she said.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.