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Obama mulled preemptive attack on N. Korea: book

2018/09/12 00:46

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (Yonhap) -- Former U.S. President Barack Obama mulled a preemptive attack on North Korea after its fifth nuclear test in 2016, according to a book released Tuesday.

Obama was deeply disturbed to learn that North Korea had conducted its biggest-yet nuclear detonation on Sept. 9, 2016, with the North claiming the new nuclear bomb could be mounted on a ballistic missile, journalist Bob Woodward wrote in "Fear: Trump in the White House."

   "Even with his intense desire to avoid a war, Obama decided the time had come to consider whether the North Korean nuclear threat could be eliminated in a surgical military strike," the book claims.

"The North Korean threat had not been diminished, and in September 2016 Obama posed a sensitive question to his National Security Council: Was it possible to launch a preemptive military strike, supported by cyber attacks, on North Korea to take out their nuclear and missile programs?" it continues.

Woodward's account of the internal deliberations of the Trump White House has raised a storm in Washington, with the president bashing the book as "fake."

   The Obama anecdote indicates that U.S. considerations of a preemptive strike on North Korea began even before the Trump administration took office in early 2017.

This AP photo shows a copy of Bob Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House." (Yonhap) This AP photo shows a copy of Bob Woodward's "Fear: Trump in the White House." (Yonhap)

The Trump administration reportedly mulled a "bloody nose" strike on North Korea last year amid the regime's intercontinental ballistic missile tests and sixth nuclear test. And those alleged considerations have been well documented.

Obama eventually scrapped any plans for a preemptive strike, according to "Fear." Not only was there no certainty that it would wipe out North Korea's nuclear program, it could trigger a North Korean response.

"The Pentagon reported that the only way 'to locate and destroy -- with complete certainty -- all components of North Korea's nuclear program' was through a ground invasion," Woodward writes. "A ground invasion would trigger a North Korean response, likely with a nuclear weapon."

   Obama considered that "unthinkable."

   "In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2009 he said, 'War promises human tragedy,' and 'War at some level is an expression of human folly,'" the book says. "Frustrated and exasperated, he rejected a preemptive strike. It was folly."

   hague@yna.co.kr

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