Top admiral: North Korea crisis is 'worst I've seen'

Top admiral: North Korea crisis is 'worst I've seen'
© Getty Images

The top U.S. admiral in the Pacific said Thursday that the current crisis with North Korea is the “worst [he’s] seen.”

“I'll just say that I think the crisis on the Korea peninsula is real; it’s the worst I've seen,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked whether it’s a “gradual Cuban missile crisis.”

Harris declined to offer a direct comparison to the crisis confronting the Kennedy administration on Cuba, which nearly led to a nuclear war.


Tensions have skyrocketed on the Korean peninsula over the last few weeks as the world waits to see if Kim Jong Un conducts a sixth nuclear test, as satellite imagery has indicated he is ready to do.

North Korea has also upped its typically bellicose rhetoric, threatening to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier and threatening Australia with a nuclear strike.

President Trump has hardened his rhetoric against Pyongyang and sent a carrier strike group and a guided missile sub to the peninsula. The administration has also declared that all options, including military action, are on the table.

One expert told the New York Times earlier this month that the interplay is reminiscent of “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.”

Harris would not compare to the two Thursday, saying he was not enough of an expert on the Cuban missile crisis.

“I'm not a student of the Cuban missile crisis,” Harris said. “But what I know of it, it seems that we are faced with a threat and a leader who is intent on achieving his goal of a nuclear capability against the United States.”

As other U.S. officials have said in recent weeks, Harris said it’s not a question of if, but when North Korea has the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Pressed by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (R-S.C.) on whether the United States plans to invade North Korea to stop it from completing an intercontinental ballistic missile, Harris said it would be a mistake to take any option off the table.

“I believe the president has said all options are on the table,” Harris said.

Graham responded with a message for North Korea: “In case North Korea’s listening, none of us want to invade your country … All this military force going that way is to deter them from being able to protect us and protect our allies … We’re trying to deter them from hurting us, we’re not sending a bunch of people over there to invade their country without provocation.”

Harris said Graham was right, to which Graham responded, “I hope they understand that, and I hope China understands that.”