WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States cannot be overly optimistic about the outcome of any summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and must go into it with “eyes wide open,” the head of the U.S. Pacific Command said on Thursday.
Admiral Harry Harris told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee he believed the United States would stick to its demand for the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
He said he was encouraged by the prospect of a summit, but that North Korea remained the biggest security threat in the Asia-Pacific region.
“I think we can’t be overly optimistic on outcome. We will just have to see where it goes,” Harris said.
“We’ve never been in a position where a president - our president - has met with a leader of North Korea, ever. I don’t know how to predict the future. I just think we have to go into this with eyes wide open.”
Trump made a surprise announcement last week that he was willing to meet Kim in a bid to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Trump made those remarks after a South Korean official who had met Kim last week said he had “committed to denuclearization” and to suspending nuclear and missile tests, but North Korea had yet to comment directly on that meeting.
Harris said he believed Kim would like to see a reunification of the Korean peninsula under his rule, and sought respect, status and security through the possession of nuclear weapons.
The Trump administration has said it prefers a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis, but that all options are on the table, including military ones, and officials have spoken of the possibility of a limited preventive strike on North Korea.
Harris said there was no “bloody-nose strategy,” as reported in the media.
“I don’t know what that is,” he said.
“I am charged with developing for the national command authority a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I am ready to execute whatever the president and the national command authority directs me to do. But a bloody nose strategy is not contemplated.
“I believe ... that if we do anything along the kinetic region of the spectrum of conflict that we have to be ready to do the whole thing. And we are ready to do the whole thing if ordered by the president.”
Harris said he believed Kim would “do a victory dance” if the United States were to withdraw its forces from South Korea and Japan and abrogated those alliances.
Harris accused Russia of playing a “spoiler” role over North Korea and of seeking to “mess things up” when it came to sanctions and U.S. President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, even though Moscow officially supported the sanctions.
“If the sanctions that are put in place over North Korea are too hard on North Korea, including the sanctions that China is following, I believe Russia will seek to relieve pressure of the sanctions regime and the pressure campaign,” Harris said.
Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish