The NSO and WMD teams have been tasked with establishing separate "precision strike" plans for responding to a nuclear or conventional ballistic missile scenario that has "reached the critical threshold of the Red Line," the news agency said.
The US military has detected "highly unusual and unprecedented levels" of North Korean submarine activity and evidence of an "ejection test" in the days following Pyongyang's second intercontinental ballistic missile launch this month, a defense official told CNN on Monday.
An ejection test examines a missile's "cold-launch system," which uses high-pressure steam to propel a missile out of the launch canister into the air before its engines ignite, preventing damage to the submarine or submersible barge that would launch the missile.
Carried out on land at Sinpo Naval Shipyard, Sunday's ejection test is the third time this month -- and fourth this year -- that North Korea has conducted a trial of the missile component that is critical to developing submarine launch capabilities, according to the US defense official.
Coupled with reports of increased submarine activity, news of another ejection test comes amid concerns over North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears to have the range to hit major US cities on Friday.
Experts believe if Friday's test had been fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it could have threatened cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.
President Donald Trump told reporters at his second full Cabinet meeting that his administration will be able to take care of North Korea but offered no specifics about what he plans to do.
"We will handle North Korea. We are gonna be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything," Trump said after a reporter asked him about his strategy.
When taken together, these developments are concerning because North Korea says it is trying to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States.
Two US defense officials told CNN at the time that the North Korean Romeo-class submarine was engaged in "unusual deployment activity" in the waters off the coast of Japan and was patrolling farther that it has ever gone, sailing some 100 kilometers out to sea in international waters.
On 04/21/2017, the North Korean military threatened to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes at American military bases in South Korea, Japan and beyond. China, North Korea’s main ally, warned of “storm clouds gathering” and urged both sides to exercise restraint because they are afraid that the U.S. might use military force to take out the North’s nuclear capability if the Pentagon believes that Kim Jong Un is going to act pre-emptively.
On 07/25/2017, Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korea has threatened a nuclear attack on “the heart of the US” if it attempts to remove Kim Jong Un as Supreme Leader.
The threat was in response to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who commented last week that the Trump administration needed to find a way to separate Kim from his growing nuclear stockpile.
Because the China sanctions have not deterred Kim Jong Un from continued missile tests, in April of 2017, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region to show the dictator that the U.S. government is prepared to use military force if necessary to destroy their nuclear capability.
The only remaining non-military alternative is to oust Kim Jong Un from power through a regime change. Although the Chinese government might have the desire to do that—Beijing has little sympathy for Kim Jong Un because he cleansed his regime of its China sympathizers after coming to power five years ago—they will not increase sanctions any further because they support the existence of North Korea as an independent state.
This is because if the North’s economy were to collapse, millions of South Koreans would migrate north, creating a unified Korea, filling the power vacuum created by North Korea’s demise.
Since China will not use harsher sanctions to bring down North Korea, the U.S. could step in and attempt to end both the Kim regime and North Korea itself by causing an economic collapse.
In order to achieve that outcome, the U.S. would need to cut off all North Korean access to U.S. dollars by convincing the Chinese banks and all the other companies doing business with the North to cease all economic activity.
Any attempt to take down North Korea’s economy by the U.S. will fail however, because China’s banks won’t participate in the boycott of North Korean businesses because the Chinese government doesn’t want the North Korean economy to collapse.
The only remaining option is to take out North Korea’s nuclear capability through the use of military force.
For the U.S. to use this option, they must provide South Korea with a strong enough missile defense shield to protect them from North Korean missile strikes when the North retaliates.
South Korea currently has a missile strike system that detects signs of an impending nuclear missile launch and preemptively launches cruise missiles at North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile bases.
The South’s missile defense system is not perfect however, because it cannot take down submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The North proved in 2016 that they have that capability.
In order to strengthen South Korea’s missile defenses, the U.S. government has deployed their military’s anti-ballistic missile system, named Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). South Korea’s defense ministry has claimed that it is close to operational.
Because Kim Jong Un has vowed to strike the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, when U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon determine that Kim Jong Un is close to acquiring a nuclear ICBM, the Trump administration will be forced to use the military option and eliminate North Korea’s nuclear capability.
In response, Kim Jong Un would deploy his huge army, march on Seoul and kill as many South Koreans as possible using conventional weapons.
“North Korea could potentially cause massive damage to Seoul and its surrounding areas” in a conflict, Dr. Bruce Bennett, a senior defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, previously told the DCNF.
“If North Korea restrains itself and only employs conventional weapons in an assault on South Korea, it is unlikely to overwhelm South Korea’s defenses. But if it uses weapons of mass destruction and other asymmetric approaches, the North may be able to overcome South Korean defenses—there are always large uncertainties in any war.”
The prospect of an eventual North Korean nuclear retaliation against South Korea might have been the reason behind President Trump’s suggestion last year to provide nuclear weapons to the South and to Japan.