The United States is prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea if it is certain that the communist nation is about to follow through with its sixth nuclear test, NBC News reported Thursday, citing multiple senior intelligence officials.
The unidentified officials were quoted as saying that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one of them just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.
U.S. heavy bombers are also positioned in Guam to attack the North if necessary, and earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was redirected to the area, the report said.
The U.S. strike could include missiles and bombs, cyber and special operations on the ground, it said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has talked to Chinese president Xi Jinping twice about North Korea since their Florida summit last week, and China has since sent its top nuclear negotiators to Pyongyang to communicate the gravity of the situation to the North, according to the report.
Officials told NBC News that they are aware that simply preparing an attack, even if it will only be launched if there is “imminent” North Korean action, increases the risk of provoking a large conflict.
“It’s high stakes,” a senior intelligence official directly involved in the planning was quoted by NBC News as saying. “We are trying to communicate our level of concern and the existence of many military options to dissuade the North first.”
“It’s a feat that we’ve never achieved before but there is a new sense of resolve here,” the official said, referring to the White House.
U.S. officials said, however, that implementation of the preemptive U.S. plans depends centrally on consent of the South Korean government, according to the report.