Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Monday urged the U.S. military to "be ready" regarding the nuclear threat posed by North Korea so President Donald Trump can employ military options if necessary.
"What can the U.S. military do to lessen the likelihood of conflict on the Korean peninsula?" a questioner asked at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting.
Mattis said the government is currently using a "diplomatically led, economic sanction-buttressed effort" to try to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitions but said the future is unpredictable.
"Now what does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there's one thing the U.S. Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed," Mattis said.
Mattis again said the effort to stop North Korea is diplomatically led, touting the United Nations Security Council's recent unanimous votes to impose further sanctions against the rogue country for its belligerent behavior.
"The international community has spoken, but that means the U.S. Army must stand ready," Mattis said. "So if you're ready, that's your duty at this point in time."
Trump tweeted again about ongoing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea on Monday, saying that giving the country billions of dollars over the past 25 years did not work. Trump has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his country will face destruction if it ever acts on any of its nuclear threats against the U.S. or its allies.
Similarly, Trump sent tweets on Saturday claiming North Korea had been making "fools of U.S. negotiators" for years, adding that "only one thing will work" in terms of confronting Pyongyang. The messages seem to suggest that the president considers military action the most viable approach to handling North Korea.
Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……
…hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!
The U.S. has roughly 24,000 military personnel in South Korea, including 15,000 from the Army, according to the most recent government numbers. It has around 40,000 military personnel in Japan, roughly 2,600 of which are in the Army. American forces in both countries would likely be involved in a violent conflict with North Korea.
Without accounting for the use of nuclear weapons, it is estimated that as many as 1 million people would die from a conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.
The U.S. military ranks No. 1 in the world in terms of overall strength, while North Korea is ranked 23, according to the Global Firepower Index.
More than 1.1 million people serve in North Korea's armed forces, representing approximately 5 percent of its total population. The U.S. does not have complete intelligence on North Korea's military capabilities, but the country is believed to have up to 60 nuclear weapons.
The North Korean regime is also believed to have roughly 1,300 aircraft, 300 helicopters, 430 combatant vessels, 250 amphibious vessels, 70 submarines, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles and 5,500 multiple rocket launchers, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
North Korea escalates its aggressive rhetoric against the United States. CNN's Will Ripley reports from Pyongyang, North Korea.
The procurement of nuclear material
All deliberations so far made relate to the development of ignition technology. However, it is far more difficult to get hold of the nuclear fuel. Nuclear material exists in many different forms. Of these, only metallic plutonium or HEU can be used directly in nuclear weapons, without having to be processed further. As a rough estimate, beginners would need at least 20 kg HEU or 10 kg plutonium in order to build one warhead using the implosion method, as was used for the Nagasaki bomb.55 A simpler construction principle was applied to the gun-type method used for the Hiroshima bomb. Using this method, plutonium does not work and an estimated 50 kg of uranium are needed for one bomb. A terrorist group would only choose the gun-type method if it was sure of having access to enough HEU.
Globally, there are about 250 t of military plutonium and about 1,700 t of military HEU. Civil stocks have to be added to this. Obviously, this and other nuclear material is subjet to strict security measures . Additionally, nuclear material located in non-nuclear weapon states is subject to controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called “safeguards”. These security measures are designed to detect a theft as early as possible, leaving enough time for the international community to agree on a line of action before a bomb is operational. In practice, in nearly all non-nuclear weapon states like Germany, all supplies are accurately registered. Thus, it is very unlikely that a theft could go undiscovered.
The situation is different in states that possess nuclear weapons and are not subject to international controls. Of these, the states of the former Soviet Union have been the subject of great concern for many years, with regard to the security of nuclear material. It seems that an exact overview of stocks has been lost or never existed in a sufficiently accurate form. Moreover, many plants and deposits are not sufficiently secure. It is not known whether terrorists or third party states have already managed to get hold of nuclear material. However, it is certain that several attempts have been made in the past, some involving bin Laden. Several cases were already uncovered in the mid 90’s, where smugglers stole weapon-ready nuclear material, sometimes in kg amounts.57 In 1998, Russian government members revealed that plans had been made to steal 18,5 kg of HEU from one of the nation’s largest nuclear weapon plants. The plan was stopped before the material had left the plant.
North Korea launched another round of aggressive rhetoric at the United States on Thursday as media reports indicated troops in both China and South Korea were on high alert.
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