U.S. President Barack Obama said that his country has the military means to destroy North Korea but it is restraining itself out of consideration for its ally, South Korea. In an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News on April 26 (local time), President Obama said as follows:
“We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, Republic of Korea.” He called North Korea “erratic enough” and the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, “irresponsible enough that we don’t want them getting close.” He also described the North Korea regime as “a massive challenge.”
Some observers say that the reason President Obama strongly criticized North Korea, even mentioning the possibility of U.S. military action against North Korea, was to clarify his position on the rising voices in the U.S. urging strong measures against North Korea because of its recent successive provocations. President Obama said, “One of the things that we have been doing is spending a lot more time positioning our missile defense systems, so that even as we try to resolve the underlying problem of nuclear development inside of North Korea, we’re also setting up a shield that can at least block the relatively low-level threats that they’re posing right now.”
U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said at a regular press briefing, “We’re going to look at other options as we move forward if North Korea continues with this kind of behavior.” Although he did not provide details about what those options would be, he asserted that preset sanctions enforcement can be strengthened.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also said, “The path that North Korea must choose to rejoin the international community is one that involves them committing to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and come into compliance with their international obligations.”