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Officials' Tough Talk On North Korea Doesn't Necessarily Mean War

Recent statements by administration officials have been harsh, but that may not mean we're preparing for war.
Posted at 6:16 PM, Sep 05, 2017

President Donald Trump usually talks tough when it comes to North Korea.

He told reporters in August: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Now, the rest of his administration seems to be following suit.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Monday: "Nuclear powers understand their responsibilities. Kim Jong-un shows no such understanding. His abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war." 

And Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said: "Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, ... will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming."

The comments come after North Korea tested what may be its most powerful nuclear weapon yet.

The change in tone might mean the U.S. is ready to take military action — but analysts say that's unlikely.

First off, the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough troops in the region for a sustained military campaign in North Korea. Getting enough people and equipment there could take months.

Second, North Korea keeps an arsenal of conventional missiles within range of Seoul. If the U.S. strikes first, North Korea could annihilate tens of thousands of South Korean civilians.

And if a U.S. pre-emptive strike doesn't completely wipe out North Korea's nuclear capabilities, military action could prompt a retaliatory nuclear strike.

Haley isn't giving up on soft power just yet; she's is asking for more sanctions on North Korea in a last ditch diplomatic effort before "it's too late."