No ‘bloody nose’ plan to strike North Korea’s nuclear weapons infrastructure: U.S. officials

Senators of both parties and a Trump administration official have denied previous open source reporting that the Pentagon has prepared a “bloody nose” strike against North Korean nuclear weapons infrastructure that falls short of all-out war.

The denials are expected to curb speculation that President Donald Trump was considering such a strike, which many experts believe would have been a dangerous gamble given Pyongyang’s ability to counterstrike South Korea’s heavily-populated capital of Seoul, as well as U.S. forces stationed near the North-South border.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and James Risch, R-Idaho, said at a Senate hearing Thursday that senior Trump administration official denied that Trump was considering such a plan during a Wednesday briefing.

The administration “made it very clear there is no bloody nose strategy for a strike against North Korea,” Shaheen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was considering the nomination of Susan Thornton, Trump’s choice to be the top diplomat for East Asia.

“We were told clearly by administration people about as high up as it gets that there is no such thing as a ‘bloody nose’ strategy, that they’ve never talked about, they’ve never considered it, they’ve never used that term, and it’s not something that people ought to be talking about,” Risch said.

From the U.S. media report:

Thornton confirmed the administration’s policy remains one of “maximum pressure” through economic sanctions to get North Korea to negotiate on eliminating up its nuclear weapons. At the same time, the U.S. is keeping military options on the table.

“Our preference is to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through a diplomatic settlement, but we will reach this goal one way or another,” she said. [source]

Analysis: The “bloody nose” strategy surfaced in a generally reliable British newspaper in December, The Daily Mail, so dismissing it out of hand doesn’t make sense. Besides, other administration officials up to and including Defense Secretary James Mattis have said that there are an array of military options for North Korea; a surgical strike against pre-identified nuclear targets backed up by a further threat of force makes sense tactically, though it certainly would be risky and require the pre-approval of the South Korean government, at a minimum.

So this blanket denial, to me, sounds a lot like damage control. 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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