President Trump on Monday announced that his administration has re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, a move aimed at increasing pressure on Pyongyang nearly a decade after the George W. Bush administration removed the rogue nation from the list.
Trump made his decision public during a brief photo op at a Cabinet meeting, calling it "a very critical step" that "should've happened a long time ago." The president cited assassinations by dictator Kim Jong Un's regime carried out on foreign soil, as well as the treatment of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in June days after he was released in a coma by the North after spending 17 months in captivity.
The top US nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against an order from President Donald Trump for a nuclear strike if it were "illegal."
Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, Gen. John Hyten, who is the commander of US Strategic Command, shared what would happen if he were ordered to launch a nuclear strike.
"I provide advice to the President," Hyten said. "He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."
While the President retains that authority, Hyten publicly emphasized that the US military always has the obligation to follow only legal orders, including those entailing the launch of nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong Un's latest ballistic missile test flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low-earth orbit, according to South Korea's military.
Although analysts were scrambling Wednesday to learn what they could about the North Korean launch, Pyongyang said it had tested a new type of missile, named the Hwasong-15.
Dictator Kim's secretive state claimed it was carrying a "super-large heavy warhead" that was capable of striking the entire U.S. mainland. But analysts say that based on the current evidence it's hard to prove or debunk the North's claim that it can now hit faraway American targets such as New York or Washington, D.C.
The North Koreans have now test-fired missiles 18 times since President Donald Trump took office in January. Tuesday's launch was the first in more than two months.