Top US general says it's Trump's decision whether to strike N. Korea

ABC News' Martha Raddatz interviews Gen. Joseph Dunford.

ByConor Finnegan
August 14, 2017, 9:29 AM

SEOUL, South Korea -- The decision on whether to strike North Korea ultimately rests with President Donald Trump, his top military adviser told reporters at a news conference today, adding that the focus is now on diplomatic and economic efforts to solve the standoff.

The United States is watching closely whether Pyongyang will fire missiles near Guam, with North Korea’s stated "mid-August" deadline for doing so falling Tuesday on a major Korean holiday, Liberation Day, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

"I don't know if they're going to do what they say they're going to do. But we're not complacent about it,” Dunford told ABC News after the news conference in Seoul. “We're paying attention to everything that they say, everything that they do and we're preparing accordingly.”

Dunford attempted to reassure Americans, as well as Japanese and South Koreans, that the U.S. military has the "capability to defend them against a limited attack that North Korea is capable of delivering today."

Asked during his news conference about Trump's rhetoric and whether it has made the situation worse, Dunford said the president is communicating to a number of different audiences, including North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and China.

"My job is not to access whether the president's rhetoric is helpful or not," Dunford said. "My job is to make sure that when a president makes a decision, and he makes a decision to use military force, that I provide him with good options."

Dunford wouldn't speculate on any action the U.S. military might take under which conditions, calling it a "political decision." But he added that all would be done in consultation with allies in the region: South Korea and Japan.

The United States’ top military commander is on a tour of East Asia, and met with South Korean President Jae-in Moon today. The two didn't discuss Trump’s rhetoric or any change in joint military exercises -- the latest of which start this week -- according to the general. But the South Korean government said Dunford did tell Moon that the United States is preparing military options in the event that diplomatic pressure fails.

But Dunford has hope that it won't, adding that there is "a sense of urgency" now that the "international community has to address" this standoff. One positive sign of that, he said, was the latest round of sanctions on North Korea, orchestrated by the United States and passed at the United Nations Security Council.

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