Advanced diplomatic and military options are being readied as part of the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to North Korea following its largest nuclear test to date, senior White House and Pentagon officials are reporting.
The package includes cyberattacks and increased surveillance, as well as intelligence operations, reports NBC News, and could also include a U.N. Security resolution that mandates inspections of ships going into and out of North Korea.
According to a senior administration official, the inspections will focus on ships exporting missile parts and technology from North Korea, along with materials coming in.
Administration officials added that Trump is considering adding strong sanctions on Chinese banks that continue to do business with Pyongyang, while upgrading missile defenses, both considered diplomatically risky decisions.
A White House source also said the Trump administration has not ruled out moving tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea if Seoul requests them, a move that would go against the standing U.S. policy to keep the Korean Peninsula denuclearized.
NBC reported its information came from nearly a dozen officials from both the Trump administration and the Pentagon, and that they all requested remaining anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the reports.
Diplomacy, though, remains the core part of U.S. strategy, with Trump saying Thursday that he would “prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen.”
U.S. officials are anticipating that North Korea will test another ICBM launch in upcoming day.
Trump has been presented with several options, including pre-emptive strikes, but his advisers warn that taking military actions could result in serious consequences.
Further, China has informed the Trump administration that if the United States hits North Korea first, Beijing will back Pyongyang rather than the U.S., according to a senior military official, but if North Korea hits first, “that changes everything.”
Using nuclear weapons, meanwhile, remains remote and would be considered too aggressive and would not be supported either domestically or internationally, but Trump’s team has reviewed the options as part of its planning.
“We talk about all kinds of crazy stuff we never do,” the official told NBC “Then you know why you rule it out.”
White House and defense officials said the deployment of Aegis SM-3 land-based missile interceptors is also being included, and that four launchers for the anti-missile THAAD system were moved into place in Seongju, South Korea on Wednesday, bringing the system to full