The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific warned that the situation in North Korea is a “recipe for disaster,” weeks before Donald Trump makes his first visit to the region as president.
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in a speech on Tuesday in Singapore that China must do more to build pressure on North Korea. The U.S. government will continue to be presented with military options, he said.
“Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missiles in the hands of a volatile leader, Kim Jong Un, is a recipe for disaster,” Harris said. “Many people have thought about military options being unimaginable regarding North Korea. Folks, I must imagine the unimagined.”
Harris’s remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies event came amid increasing saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea. There have been signs that Kim Jong Un’s regime is preparing more missile tests as the U.S. and its ally, South Korea, conduct joint drills.
Trump’s effort to halt North Korea’s drive to build a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the continental U.S. is expected to be a topic of contention when the U.S. president makes his first swing through the region from Nov. 3 to Nov. 14. His stops include Japan, South Korea and China, which the U.S. has accused of enabling Kim’s government with economic and political support.
The marine exercises, including the supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan, started Monday and will continue through Friday on both sides of the Korean Peninsula. South Korean media reported over the weekend that North Korean “transporter erector launchers” had been observed carrying ballistic missiles near Pyongyang and North Pyongan province.
Tensions often rise around such drills, which North Korea views as rehearsals for invasion. The country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned on Monday that nuclear war “may break out any moment.”
North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, and has launched more than a dozen rockets this year, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach as far as the U.S. East Coast. The country views the weapons as a way to deter an eventual U.S. attack that could topple the regime, such as in Iraq and Libya.