The top American general in South Korea said that the “choice” of “self-restraint” was the only thing preventing a war with North Korea as the U.S. mulls a response to Pyongyang with no good options.
Gen. Vincent Brooks made the comments a day after it was confirmed that North Korea had indeed successfully launched an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), a game-changer in its capabilities.
But according to South Korea, the ICBM could reach Alaska and Hawaii.
“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Brooks said in a statement. “As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”
Restraint appears to be the only viable response anyway, given the lack of good options on how to combat the dangerous escalation instigated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
While the U.S. and South Korea conducted joint missile exercises Wednesday, pundits rattled off the dangers of attempting to destroy North Korea’s arsenal.
“There is no military option here to destroy his nuclear program, his missile program,” former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell said.
“Even if you could be assured you take out all the nuclear and missile capabilities, North Korea also has significant conventional retaliatory capabilities. That could turn parts of Seoul into Aleppo (Syria), and that’s the fear,” said Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London.
Even a surgical strike against North Korea’s nukes would give Kim enough time to launch a counterattack on South Korea, inflicting catastrophic loss of life; nearly half of its population lives within 50 miles of the demilitarized zone — including 10 million people alone in Seoul — where North Korea has 8,000 artillery cannons stationed.
“You have this massive agglomeration of everything that is important in South Korea and all of it is in this gigantic megalopolis that starts 30 miles from the border and ends 70 miles from the border,” Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, told the Times
“In terms of national security, it’s just nuts.”