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Obama’s Reported SecDef Nominee Backed Preemptive Strikes On N. Korea

Ashton Carter
Ashton Carter / AP
• December 2, 2014 10:37 am

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President Barack Obama’s reported nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense advocated U.S. strikes on North Korean missile sites in 2006, a position that could come up in future nomination hearings on Capitol Hill.

Ashton Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense, is the expected replacement for outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was officially ousted by Obama last week.

While Carter is likely to garner support from a majority of senators, he has in the past advocated preemptive strikes against North Korea, which continues to this day to carry out advanced missile work.

Carter, in 2006, called on the Bush administration to launch offensive strikes against North Korean missile sites, urging the former president in a Washington Post op-ed to "immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched."

"Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil?" Carter asked in a piece jointly written with former Secretary of Defense William Perry. "We believe not."

Carter and Perry very specifically laid out a plan of attack on North Korea and touched on the risks of such an attack.

They concluded that it would be riskier to allow North Korea to continue its contested nuclear missile work—a situation reminiscent of the debate over Iran’s nuclear work and how to handle it.

"This is a hard measure for President Bush to take," Carter and Perry wrote. "It undoubtedly carries risk. But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea's race to threaten this country would be greater."

"Creative diplomacy might have avoided the need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives," they wrote. "Indeed, in earlier years the two of us were directly involved in negotiations with North Korea, coupled with military planning, to prevent just such an outcome."

"We believe diplomacy might have precluded the current situation. But diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature," Carter and Perry wrote. "A successful Taepodong launch, unopposed by the United States, its intended victim, would only embolden North Korea even further. The result would be more nuclear warheads atop more and more missiles."

Published under: North Korea