Two leading U.S. national security officials said a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent, but they indicated the possibility of war still looms.
"We're not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, said on August 13.
McMaster told ABC television’s This Week program that the United States continues to pursue "a very determined diplomatic effort," led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with new financial sanctions to discourage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from making further provocative moves.
Trump and Kim have exchanged threats after Pyongyang's continued testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
Trump declared that the U.S. military was "locked and loaded" and warned Kim that he "will regret it fast" if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.
Speaking on the Fox News Sunday program on August 13, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that “there's nothing imminent today" but that it was important to make clear to North Korea that U.S. patience has worn out.
"The reaction in North Korea that we are intending to get is an is an understanding that America is no longer going to have the strategic patience that it's had that has permitted [Kim] to continue to develop his weapons program," Pompeo said. "It's that straightforward."
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is traveling in Asia and is expected to meet with leaders in South Korea, Japan, and China.
Dunford told reporters he is aiming to "sense what the temperature is in the region" and will discuss military options in the event the "diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign" fails.
"We're all looking to get out of this situation without a war," Dunford said.
His journey to Asia comes as North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper said in an editorial that Pyongyang’s army is "capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants."