Here's why a US attack on North Korea could be catastrophic

As North Korea draws ever closer to possessing a nuclear weapon that could hit the US mainland, President Donald Trump and his top military advisers must weigh whether or not they’d launch a preemptive strike on North Korea and risk potentially millions of lives in the process.

But even though a US military strike on North Korea would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale,” according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that doesn’t mean it’s off the table.

At a National Committee on US-China Relations event in New York City, Samuel J. Locklear, the former head of the US military’s Pacific Command made it clear: “Just because it’s tragic doesn’t mean he won’t do it.”

“If the national interests are high enough, and I think this is the mistake that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un needs really to think about, if you start pressing on an issue that has to do with the survival of the United States against a nuclear attack, the tragic becomes conceivable to stop it,” said Locklear. “It could be tragic.”

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, another former commander of Pacific Command, echoed Locklear’s statement.

Related: This is where North Korea would strike if it had a nuclear missile

“There are a wide range of options” that are “readily available to the president and the secretary of defense resident in the planning warrens at Pacific command,” Keating said at the event.

The discussion between two former top military commanders shows what a difficult situation the US is in with regard to North Korea. Pyongyang may wield up to 15 or so nuclear weapons, and they repeatedly threaten to use them against US forces, South Koreans, and Japanese.

Though the US has in place the world’s most advanced missile defenses, there are no guarantees when it comes to stopping ballistic missiles. Even a single nuclear warhead touching down near Seoul could kill millions of innocent South Koreans in an instant.

The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Additionally, South Korea’s new, progressive government would likely not approve of a military strike.

But the US has its own citizens to worry about. Experts contacted by Business Insider have spoken with near unanimity saying North Korea wants a thermonuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile to hold the US at risk.

What exactly the US military planners discuss behind closed doors rightly remains classified, but if they calculate that a relatively small tragedy today could avert a massive tragedy tomorrow, then the US may see war with North Korea at some point.

Buisness Insider

Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter .

TOP ARTICLES
This is why car bombs are a terrorist go-to

Responsible for two of the three deadliest terrorist attacks against Americans in history, car bombs are tailor made to mess with your mind.

This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

The M9A3 offers a bigger magazine, a user-friendly grip, and a host of improvements based on lessons learned from over three decades of service.

This is what the DoD has planned for a zombie apocalypse

It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.

Some dirtbags messed with an Iwo Jima memorial — and Marines caught 'em on film

Officials say an Iwo Jima memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend. Police are investigating

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they'll be ready for use next month

The new identification card will provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee's military service.

This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.

Now the Iraqi army is going after the Kurdish forces who helped beat ISIS

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week that saw the Kurds hand over territory across Northern Iraq.

This Kurdish female militia refuses to stop its hunt for ISIS terrorists

A Kurdish female militia, after helping free the city of Raqqa, said it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here's why

Hint: There's this guy a few thousand miles away who's threatening to lob a nuke in their direction.

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The US has quadrupled its military presence in Somalia after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in two truck bombings. Half of them are special ops troops.