Experts Do Not See US Military Response to N. Korean Nuclear Test

The U.S. military had little reaction to Monday's North Korean claim that it had conducted a nuclear test. But one senior official said it does not change existing contingency plans, and a Washington-based analyst says the main U.S. response will not be military.

The Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, told reporters Monday he wishes North Korea had not conducted the apparent nuclear test. But he said the move does not change anything for U.S. ground forces.

"It doesn't change the existing plans," said Secretary Harvey. "We have detailed plans. I don't think it changes the conventional deterrent, as far as the detailed plans go. We can't discuss war plans, but we have, as you can imagine, we have war plans for every contingency you can imagine. But, it's certainly a development that we wish wouldn't have happened, for sure."

Other senior defense officials declined to comment on the North Korean explosion. The commander of U.S. forces in Korea made a speech in Washington on Monday, but he did not mention the test, and he avoided reporters afterwards.

In the speech, General B.B. Bell did make a timely statement about the determination of U.S. forces to address all the threats they face around the world.

"There's no backing down here for GI Joe [the American soldier]," said General Bell. "The stakes are too great, the consequences of failure too catastrophic."

In the past, U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have expressed concern about the possibility that North Korea could become a nuclear power. But officials and experts also point out that there is a difference between being able to create a nuclear explosion, and being able to put a nuclear weapon on a missile that could deliver it, accurately, to a target.

Many U.S. experts believe North Korea is at least a year away from being able to do that, perhaps much more. But last year, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the congress he believed North Korea already had the ability to launch a nuclear armed missile at that time. That was a year before North Korea's series of missile tests in July.

Analyst Michael O'Hanlon, of Brookings Institution, says the North Korean explosion Monday creates more of a diplomatic opening for the United States than a military one.

"The U.S. military response can not be the central element here, because it just makes no sense to go out and destroy a North Korean test site since they could always build another," said Michael O'Hanlon. "And we don't know where their nuclear weapons are, so therefore we can't really attack them. So I think there's an entirely distinct possibility of some kind of symbolic or stabilizing response, adding a few hundred more American troops or a couple more Patriot defense batteries or what have you. But I think the core of our approach has to be to try to convince South Korea and China to get tougher economically and diplomatically with the North."

O'Hanlon also believes North Korea does not intend to use, or even sell, its apparent new capability, but rather to use it for diplomatic leverage.

"I think what they're really trying to do in all likelihood is create a new bargaining chip in their arsenal, in their diplomatic arsenal," he said. "The military benefit, or potential military benefit, the potential sale of nuclear material that they also now have open to them, these are much less likely to be real choices the North Koreans would take."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii is not commenting on any additional security measures it might be taking. In August, a senior U.S. Air Force officer in charge of long-range bombers based on the Pacific island of Guam said North Korea is part of the usual set of potential targets his forces train to attack. The officer said there was no need to increase his troops' level of readiness after July's missile tests because his bombers are already ready to hit North Korea, or any other target in their range, on a moment's notice.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs