White House: Comment that striking North Korea would help in midterms 'never happened'

White House: Comment that striking North Korea would help in midterms 'never happened'
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The White House is pushing back on the claim that a National Security Council (NSC) official suggested that a pre-emptive strike on North Korea could help the Republican Party's political odds in the midterm elections.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fired back at a Wall Street Journal reporter on Twitter after he tweeted a story published by a South Korean newspaper alleging that the NSC's senior director for Asian affairs, Matthew Pottinger, mentioned a possible strike on North Korea as a way to bolster political support for the GOP.

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Her tweet came in response to a post by the Journal's Seoul bureau chief Jonathan Cheng, who had initially tweeted the allegation, attributing it to the newspaper Hankyoreh. Cheng has since deleted the tweet.

The alleged quote from Pottinger was used in an op-ed published by Hankyoreh. But the quote was initially included in an earlier article by the newspaper's Washington correspondent, which cites a source as saying that Pottinger's suggestion was implied, rather than explicit.

According to Business Insider, the Korean version of the op-ed states that Pottinger said something "to the effect" that a limited strike on North Korea might help the Republicans' chances in the midterm elections.

The alleged quote prompted concern, because it suggested that the Trump administration might see a military confrontation with North Korea as a viable political tactic and a way to rack up support in the face of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE's dwindling approval ratings.

Trump has repeatedly threatened the possibility of military action against North Korea, warning that he would "totally destroy" the country if it threatened the U.S. or its allies.

Those threats, and similar ones from North Korean officials, have heightened fears of war on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has made a series of new developments in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs over the past year, causing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea to soar.