US commander issues dire warning over North Korean nukes
MORE than half of Americans want President Donald Trump to attack North Korea - and the president has indicated that's a real possibility.
In an interview with Reuters today, Mr Trump admitted a major conflict with North Korea was possible but said it wasn't his preferred outcome.
"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely," Mr Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.
He maintained he wanted to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Meanwhile, the commander of US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry B Harris Jr, warned it was only a matter of time before Kim Jong-un is capable of launching a nuclear warhead towards the US.
"The crisis on the Korean peninsula is real - the worst I've seen," he said in an interview with Fox News.
"There is some doubt within the intelligence community whether Kim Jong-un has that capability today or whether he will soon, but I have to assume he has it, the capability is real, and that he's moving towards it."
His dire warning comes as a Fox News Poll found 53 per cent of Americans believe military action is the best way to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
The poll also showed 39 per cent of voters believe North Korea is the biggest risk facing the country today compared to 25 per cent for Islamic State.
Admiral Harris said North Korea remained the biggest threat to security across the region today as it "vigorously" pursued strikes and launches intended to target Australia, South Korea, and the US.
"Kim Jong-un is making progress and all nations need to take this seriously because their missiles point in all directions," Admiral Harris said.
"If left unchecked, they will match the capability of his hostile rhetoric."
Just days ago North Korea accused Australia of "blindly and zealously toeing the US line" and threatened a nuclear strike on one of a chief American ally.
North Korea threatened nuclear retaliation after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the secretive nation would be subject to further Australian sanctions over its program.
The country's state-run KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman who accused the Australian foreign minister of "spouting a string of rubbish against the DPRK over its entirely just steps for self-defence".
"If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK."
Admiral Harris said recent threats by the rogue state such as these showed how serious the situation is.
"Hi rhetoric is going in one direction and his capabilities are approaching the lines of his rhetoric," he said.
"Where those lines cross, I believe we are at an inflection point and we wake up to a new world."
He acknowledged the uncertainty within US intelligence agencies over how far along North Korea's nuclear and missile programs was but said it was clear what its intentions were.
"There is no doubt in my mind," Harris said.
The Trump administration has declared that all options, including a targeted military strike, are on the table to block North Korea from carrying out threats against the US and its allies in the region.
But a pre-emptive attack isn't likely, US officials have said, and the administration is pursuing a strategy of putting pressure on Pyongyang with assistance from China, North Korea's main trading partner and the country's economic lifeline.
Admiral Harris said the financial sanctions imposed against the North Korean regime by the US and other countries have done nothing to slow North Korea's quest for weapons of mass destruction, the Associated Press reported.
He also said he has been sceptical of China's willingness to exert its influence over North Korea and convince Pyongyang to pull back from the brink but has become "cautiously optimistic" following recent talks between US
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"It's only been a month or so and it's too early to tell," he said.
"I wouldn't bet my farm on it."
- with AP