Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair: We've never been closer to nuclear war with North Korea

After a year heightened tensions, a former top defense official says the U.S. has never been closer to nuclear war

By Charlie May

Published December 31, 2017 11:18AM (EST)

Donald Trump; Kim Jong-un   (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Getty/KCNA/Salon)
Donald Trump; Kim Jong-un (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Getty/KCNA/Salon)

Ever since President Donald Trump took office last January, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated dramatically. So much so, that one former top defense official believes the United States is the closest it's ever been to a nuclear war in the region.

"We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we've ever been," former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said on ABC on Sunday. "I don't see the opportunities how to solve this diplomatically at this particular point."

The harrowing words from Mullen come after tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have drastically escalated. Many instances have consisted of personal insults being hurled back and forth by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As a result, many have questioned Trump's mental stability, but Mullen has attributed it to the president's worldview, instead.

"Yeah, I don't question the stability. I just think it's the view," Mullen explained. "And I think that I have watched Secretary Mattis and General McMaster and General Kelly on the national security issues over time I think get the president to a point where he makes a decision that may be counter to his instincts. My concern is how long that actually lasts."


He added, "And in particular, that the peninsula in North Korea and will he follow through on his rhetoric? Or will we actually be able to get to a situation where it could be solved peacefully?"

Mullen also expressed that China was "they key" and questioned if the nation would "really force the resolution of the issue."

Earlier in his presidency, Trump repeatedly called on China to help mitigate tensions, however, his tone has shifted in recent weeks and months. On Thursday, Trump accused China of allowing oil to flow into North Korea.


The tweet followed earlier reports out of South Korea that China had been secretly selling oil to the North Korean regime, which would violate sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

Mullen added, "I think it's important to ensure that he knows we're out there and very committed to the stability in that region, and in fact committed to getting to a point where he -- where we denuclearize that peninsula."


Charlie May

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