Time is running out to avoid a war with North Korea, the White House national security has warned, after it emerged that the US is scoping out sites for missile interception batteries following the latest ballistic missile tests from Pyongyang.
“We’re in a race to be able to solve this problem,” H.R McMaster told Fox News during a weekend defence forum.
“There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict, but it is a race because he’s getting closer and closer and there’s not much time left,” he said, adding that dictator Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions were the “greatest immediate threat” to the US and the world.
Despite the US warnings, Pyongyang blasted the US and South Korea as self-destructive “warmongers” ahead of their largest-ever joint air exercise, which begins on Monday.
The five-day ‘Vigilant Ace’ drill will involve 12,000 military personnel and 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptors and F-35 stealth fighters that will train close to the border with the North. Exercises will focus on enemy infiltration and precision airstrikes.
Mr McMaster’s comments come just days after North Korea fired its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile test, capable of flying 8,080 miles and reaching 1,000 miles higher than during its first ICBM launch in July.
Hwasong-15 ICBM – new North Korean missile
The US Missile Defence Agency (MDA), tasked with protecting the country from attacks, is now reported to be scouting the West Coast for places to deploy new anti-missile defences, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system currently being used by South Korea.
The accelerated pace of North Korea’s testing programme this year and the likelihood that the rogue regime could target the US mainland with a nuclear strike has raised the pressure on Washington to shore up the country’s defences.
On Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon to start moving US military dependents, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea is growing close.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea given the provocation of North Korea,” he said.
Tensions with North Korea have escalated in recent months over Kim’s continued development of its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of United Nations resolutions.
North Korea’s state-controlled Rodong newspaper on Sunday slammed today’s drill as “an open provocation against the DPRK (Democratic…