Halifax, Nova Scotia (AP) — The top officer at U.S. Strategic Command said Saturday an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that order is determined to be illegal.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Strategic Command, told a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday that he and Trump have had conversations about such a scenario and that he would tell Trump he couldn’t carry out an illegal strike.
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“If it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen. I’m going to say, ‘Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?'” Hyten said.
“And we’ll come up with options with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works.”
In the event that Trump decided to launch a nuclear attack, Hyten would provide him with strike options that are legal.
The command would control nuclear forces in a war.
The comments come as the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea remains a serious concern and Trump’s critics question his temperament. Trump’s taunting tweets aimed at Pyongyang have sparked concerns primarily among congressional Democrats that he may be inciting a war with North Korea.
During testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, retired Gen. Robert Kehler who served as the head of Strategic Command from January 2011 to November 2013, also said the U.S. armed forces are obligated to follow legal orders, not illegal ones.
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Hyten said he’s talked it over with Trump.
“I think some people think we’re stupid. We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility how do you not think about it?” he said.
He said he would not obey an illegal order.
“You could go to jail for the rest of your life,” he said.
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Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, US Air Force general John Hyten revealed he would attempt to find ways around an illegal nuclear launch if given the order by the firebrand Republican.
The commander of Strategic Command said: “I think some people think we’re stupid.
“We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?
“I provide advice to the President, he will tell me what to do.
“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’
“And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.
“If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”
Mr Hyten oversees America’s nuclear arsenal – his statements come as a warning to the President following his persistent threats against an attack on North Korea.
Donald Trump has made North Korea one of the biggest agendas in his tenure after being locked in a war of words with despot leader Kim Jong-un for months.
The President had the consistent threats of nuclear annihilation from the hermit kingdom at the forefront of his agenda when meeting with world leaders during his recent tour of Asia.
In an effort to combat a potential provocation from the rogue state, Trump’s administration asked Congress for $4 billion.
Defence officials are concerned that the US missile defence system may not be sufficient to deter a North Korea attack.
Hidden deep within the emergency funding request lies a series of hints to new possible plans Donald Trump is using to combat the North Korea threat.
The White house is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on two new approaches to react to a North Korea strike on the US.
The first involves a sophisticated cyber warfare system that would sabotage and interfere with missile launches before they occur, the Pentagon has called this the “left of launch” approach.
The second solution would see North Korean missiles blown up in the “most phase” when they are slow-moving and highly visible targets.
This would involve the use of rocket-firing drones to target missiles as they are launched from North Korea.
Leonard Caveny, a planner behind the rocket-firing drones, said an accelerated programme could see the weapons produced within a year.
His team are considering the use of an Avenger, a drone that has a 76-feet wingspan.
Dr Caveny said: “This is going to be a game changer.
Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies added: “What you’re seeing is a lot more options on the table.”
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