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Gen. Clark: News of NKorea's Nukes Complicates Deterrence Option

Gen. Clark: News of NKorea's Nukes Complicates Deterrence Option
(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 08 August 2017 02:50 PM

Reports that North Korea has developed miniaturized nuclear weapons that can be fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile means the United States will have to accept the fact that it will need to move into a period of "mutual deterrance," retired NATO Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said Tuesday.

"We're going to have to accept the fact that if their capability stands, that in the event of war on the Korean peninsula, the United States homeland is not safe, and therefore this makes deterrence more complicated," Clark said during a panel discussion on MSNBC's "Craig Melvin" show. 

Deterrence can work, as it did during the Cold War, Clark continued, but he compared protecting South Korea to protecting Hamburg, Germany against the Soviet Union, if the then-USSR had decided to use nuclear weapons.

"If we defended against the Soviet attack in Germany, and they used nuclear weapons, then it would bring the conflict to the United States," he explained. "That is the same question that is going to have to be asked and answered in terms of protecting the government and the people of South Korea now."

Clark said he would suggest to President Donald Trump to open talks with North Korea, and they have to be held "without the precondition that has been put on them that [they] have to give up their nuclear programs."

That is "not realistic," Clark said. "That is their guarantee of survival. The North Korean regime has to understand, 'okay, so you have a nuclear weapon with a missile. Now behave yourself and be a normal country, and stop threatening people and you don't have to worry about the United States threatening you.'"

That may lead to a series of agreements so that northeast Asia can be stabilized while keeping U.S. determent in place in Japan and South Korea, Clark said.

However, the United States must understand that it is in the best interests of China and Russia to push the United States out of South Korea and ultimately away from its relationship of Japan, said Clark.

If the United States does enter talks with North Korea, that would not necessarily discourage other countries from also arming themselves with nuclear weapons, Clark conceded.

"The point is, starting in 2002, once we declared an Axis of Evil, President [George W.] Bush said we can't let the worst countries have the worst weapons," said Clark. "It was a challenge. We were focused on the Middle East, but North Korea already had a head start in the nuclear weapons program. They took up the challenge and now they have the weapon. So the situation is different. We have to do what is best for the American people and our allies."

It would be better if a "rogue nation" like North Korea didn't have such weapons, he continued, but it does, so the United States must "recognize that and deal with it."

"Yes, we could try to prevent other countries from getting nuclear weapons," said Clark. "But North Korea has nuclear weapons."

Clark said a military strike against North Korea would have to target a number of facilities, and it is not known where the warheads are.

"You have to target all of those," the retired general said. "You have to assume that some you haven't found. You launch a surprise strike by Special Forces, maybe you have to take out some of their defense to get in there. It has to be as effective as possible."

However, Clark said military experts would determine there would be possibly a 70 percent or 80 percent chance of getting the warheads, and they won't all be destroyed.

"You've got to be prepared for the North Korean reaction," said Clark. "The North Korean reaction could be to step back stunned that the United States has done this. But this would be uncharacteristic of North Korea's previous propensity to take aggressive action. So it's more likely that they would then respond with artillery and missiles across the demilitarized zone. That is the most likely option other than a general war on the Korean peninsula."

Clark said he does not think economic sanctions have been effective, and China has several interests in play.

"The tighter the sanctions, the greater the likelihood of some collapse that would unleash millions of North Koreans into China," said Clark. "They don't want the collapse of the regime which would lead to a South Korean and U.S. expansion of our domain and move us closer to China's border. And so they don't like that option. And they don't want warfare, but they would like the United States to leave the Korean peninsula. So they are like a guy with a skeleton key jiggling the key in the lock trying to make the lock turn."

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Reports that North Korea has developed miniaturized nuclear weapons that can be fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile means the United States will have to accept the fact that it will need to it will have to move into a period of "mutual deterrance," retired...
wesley clark, news, north korea, nukes, complicates, deterrence
Tuesday, 08 August 2017 02:50 PM
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