Former President Barack Obama had eight years to deal with the rising threat in North Korea, but did little to stop madman Kim Jong Un’s dangerous nuclear weapons program.
Instead, the responsibility to protect the world from nuclear terror was thrust onto President Donald Trump — and Trump has just dropped the most chilling warning to North Korea yet.
The United State is “locked and loaded,” Trump promised — and is ready to act in defense of our country’s safety should North Korea act “unwisely.”
Trump tweeted —
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
This week, North Korea announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers.
If carried out, it could be seen as a direct attack on American soil — and would likely prompt a full military retaliation by the U.S. armed forces.
Trump said this week the U.S. would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S. and doubled-down Friday, sharing a message from the U.S. Pacific Command —
— U.S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) August 11, 2017
Each missile North Korea launches brings it closer to having a reliable nuclear force capable of striking the United States mainland, or its allies and military facilities in Asia. Kim Jong Un has radically accelerated the pace of the North’s missile development since taking power during Obama’s administration, and many experts believe it could have an intercontinental ballistic missile able to hit major American cities within a year or two.
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It already has ballistic missiles that can strike Japan, a key ally and host to roughly 50,000 U.S. troops. It’s very possible the North could attack Japan and U.S. bases there with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.
But the North clearly still needs to conduct more tests to hone its technical skills.
In particular, doubts remain over whether it has perfected re-entry technology for its warheads. It also needs to train its troops to operate effectively in the field to handle nuclear warheads and missiles on short notice.
There’s growing pressure on the United States to shoot down the North’s missiles, and supporters say doing so would hamper North Korea’s ability to glean the flight data it needs. And if his missiles prove no match for U.S. interceptors, Kim Jong Un might be chastened into thinking twice before conducting any more.
Intercepting a missile over the open ocean has the added benefit of not being a direct attack on North Korea itself. It would send a very strong message but leave more room for de-escalation than a pre-emptive strike against military facilities or other targets on the ground.
A big problem, critics note, is that failure would not only be humiliating, but could actually weaken the U.S. position more than doing nothing at all.
Taking out Guam-bound missiles would require successful intercepts by ship-based SM-3 “hit-to-kill” missiles over the Sea of Japan or land-based PAC-3 “Patriot” missiles on Guam. The ship-based defenses are designed to kill a missile that’s in midflight, while the ground-based ones take out whatever missiles make it through and are in the final stage.
But it’s highly questionable whether either or both would be able to take down the full salvo of four North Korean missiles.
Trump himself hinted the defense system still needs beefing up on Thursday when he told reporters the U.S. will be spending billions more on them.
The Associated Press contributed to this article