Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter is warning about the consequences of launching a pre-emptive strike against an increasingly aggressive North Korean state, while emphasizing that all options should be considered.
“If it comes to the necessity to protect ourselves, we’ve always had all options on the table. I wouldn’t take any off,” Carter told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday.
When pushed for an answer on whether the U.S. should take a preemptive strike against North Korea, Carter cautioned that such a move could result in a bloody and destructive war.
“It is quite possible that they would, as a consequence of that, launch an attempted invasion of South Korea,” Carter said.
Carter warned that the proximity of South Korea’s capital to North Korea could lead to a “very destructive war.”
“But Martha, I need to caution you: This is a war that would have an intensity of violence associated with it that we haven’t seen since the last Korean War. Seoul is right there on the border of the DMZ [Korean Demilitarized Zone] so even if the outcome is certain, it is a very destructive war,” Carter continued.
“One needs to proceed very carefully here, and that is why we are emphasizing so strongly our own deterrent posture and deterrent strength so North Korea knows that and also our defenses,” Carter added.
Carter said the U.S. should put pressure on China to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, but said Beijing is unwilling to work with the U.S. because it fears “a unified Korea allied with the United States on their border.”
“We have to protect ourselves. At the same time, I think it is worth our time to put pressure on China to play this role it has been unwilling to play,” said Carter, who is now a Harvard professor.