While the content of a high-profile White House meeting in which the entire US Senate was briefed about North Korea has not been totally made public, official attempts to emphasize the non-military efforts being made appear to be just one aspect of the story, as the consequences of a military conflict appear to also have been discussed.
Military officials emphasized the increased naval buildup around the Korean Peninsula, and preparations being made for a new Korean War, while also offering some frank warnings that North Korea would certainly retaliate against an American attack, and that such a retaliation would include major attacks against US forces in South Korea, and the South Korean capital of Seoul.
This was something the Senate was warned about, but has been surprisingly rarely discussed in public as the US masses forces in the area and talks up “taking care of” North Korea one way or another. Indeed, the White House has gone out of its way to dismiss North Korea’s retaliatory capabilities.
But this was just as it relates to nuclear arms, with doubts of North Korea’s ability to actually make a deliverable weapon. The nation has for decades had a conventional retaliatory capability, built around artillery, which could wipe out large chunks of South Korea and cause calamitous amounts of casualties.
Even today the White House played up the “very grave threat” posed by North Korea, but virtually all of the talk centered on the possibility of the US attacking them if they don’t get their way through non-nuclear means. While Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris insisted he wasn’t 100% confident North Korea wouldn’t attack first, indications are that he is in the minority on the issue.
Of course, the fact that the US has been playing up the idea of a unilateral attack for weeks doesn’t help matters. If North Korea believes a major US attack is imminent, they might ultimately try to preempt it with an attack of their own. Either way, what follows would be disastrous.