According to General Joseph Dunford, the top military adviser to President Donald Trump, a military response to North Korea would be “horrific” but remains an option.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff made the comments while visiting China.
Gen. Joseph Dunford was responding to remarks by a top Trump aide ruling out military action over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Tensions have flared between the US and North Korea after Pyongyang made advances in its missile testing.
President Trump has warned North Korea that it faces “fire and fury”, while Pyongyang has threatened to strike the American territory of Guam.
However, the sharp rhetoric of last week has since softened, with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un putting the Guam plans on hold – a move praised by President Trump.
On August 16, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said there could be no military solution to the stand-off.
He told The American Prospect: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
Gen. Dunford agreed a military solution would be “horrific” but went on to say “what’s unimaginable to me is not a military option”.
“What is unimaginable is allowing [North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un] to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region.”
He said President Trump “has told us to develop credible, viable military options, and that’s exactly what we’re doing”.
A senior Chinese military official who met Gen. Joseph Dunford told him that military action should be ruled out and that “dialogue” was the only option, the Chinese defense ministry said.
China is North Korea’s only major ally. The US has criticized China for not doing enough to rein it in, but Beijing says it has begun halting iron, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea, in line with new UN sanctions.