WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, indicated that Trump plans to discuss with Japanese and South Korean leaders during his upcoming Asian trip how to respond to the North Korea issue, including a possible scenario in which the nuclear crisis escalates into a military conflict.
During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun and other media outlets at the White House on Thursday, McMaster said, “It would be irresponsible not to talk about the potential for military efforts.”
McMaster spoke with Yomiuri Shimbun reporters and other journalists from countries Trump will visit on his first Asia tour.
McMaster emphasized that Trump “will consult with leaders across the region to understand better what more we can do to resolve this crisis short of war, which obviously everyone wants to avoid.” He added that “all of us are running out of time.”
“The use of military force is an option that we have to consider because of how grave that threat is,” he said.
McMaster went on to say: “I think what’s also going to be critical … is that there’s a common understanding that there are a number of dangers here. There’s a danger from North Korean aggression. There are dangers and risks associated with any kind of military action, obviously, and potential grave costs associated with it. But there’s also a danger of not doing enough to prevent North Korea from getting this capability, right?”
Regarding the Japan-U.S. security alliance, he said that “we have to do everything we can to not only respond to the grave threat from North Korea, but to make sure that we have all the capabilities we need should it become necessary to resolve that threat without the cooperation of the North Korean regime.”
He apparently had in mind evacuation of U.S. and Japanese citizens in South Korea, among others, in case of a contingency on the peninsula.
McMaster also said Trump will ask China and other countries not only to implement U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions, but also “to do more to increase the diplomatic and economic isolation of North Korea.”
He added that Trump wants North Korea to understand that “they have no option but to denuclearize, right, and to stop this missile program and this nuclear program, and reverse it.”
Regarding China’s increasing maritime advances and military coercion, McMaster said, “What the United States does is endeavor to achieve peace through strength” and that “a lot of our efforts are to ensure that the United States has the capability to deter by denial, which means convincing your enemy or a potential enemy that they cannot accomplish their objectives through the use of military force.”
On the economic front, he said, “The president will make a major speech in Vietnam, in Da Nang, at APEC [the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum], and that speech will include his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region as well as … the U.S. relationship with countries in the region.”