Trump had been repeatedly told that US freedom of action against North Korea was constrained by the fact that the regime’s artillery could demolish the South Korean capital in retaliation for any attack, inflicting mass casualties on its population of 25 million.
“They have to move,” Trump said, according to Bergen, who adds that his officials were initially unsure if the president was joking. But Trump then repeated the line. “They have to move!”
No action was taken in response to Trump’s bizarre remark, but the situation grew steadily worse, with a series of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile tests and a hydrogen bomb test in September 2017.
After watching a retired four-star general, Jack Keane, interviewed on Fox News in late January 2018, saying that US troops deployed to South Korea should not take their families with them, Bergen reports that Trump told his national security team: “I want an evacuation of American civilians from South Korea.”
A senior official warned that such an evacuation would be interpreted as a signal that the US was ready to go to war, and would crash the South Korean stock market, but Trump is reported to have ignored the warning, telling his team: “Go do it!”
Alarmed Pentagon officials ignored the order, and – according to Bergen – Trump eventually dropped the idea. [Continue reading…]