Hours before Trump threatened nuclear war, White House adviser said North Korea isn’t a real threat

"We would like people to understand, this is a Lilliputian flea."

Deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka talks with people in the Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka talks with people in the Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka downplayed the threat that North Korea posed to the United States during an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday morning. Calling its recent threats “blackmail”, Gorka maintained that the country was ill-equipped to face off with the United States in any capacity.

“This is blatant blackmail,” he said. “Blackmail of the western community. We don’t give in to blackmail.” He added that North Korean tough talk was mostly “bluster.”

“We would like people to understand, this is a Lilliputian flea,” Gorka argued. “North Korea is a Stalinist regime, but it can’t even feed its own people.”

Gorka made similar remarks on the network last night.

Hours after Gorka’s comments, President Trump, asked about North Korean aggression, threatened to start a nuclear war. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” he told a group of reporters. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The mixed messages from the White House comes amid new reports that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are far more advanced than previously assumed. According to the Washington Post, Defense Intelligence Agency officials last month compiled a confidential report that showed North Korea had secretly developed a “miniaturized nuclear warhead” meant to fit inside its ballistic missiles. If true, the development would mark a major step in the country’s efforts to become a nuclear power.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Gorka knew of the report’s contents ahead of its release. Gorka, a member of the White House national security advisory staff, has reportedly been denied a security clearance.

Though the official line out of Pyongyang so far has been that their weapons systems are intended for defensive measures, North Korean officials have said they’re prepared to take proactive measures if necessary. Over the weekend, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on the country, a move that could reduce the country’s export revenue by $1 billion. In response, North Korean officials threatened that the United States will “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times.”

During an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night, however, Gorka dismissed those comments and claimed North Korea had “backed [itself] into a corner.”

“They can rattle their rusty sabres, but the fact is this is a sadistic dictatorial regime, and what they have been trying to do, ever since the facilitation of their nuclear weapons program by the Clinton White House, and later the Obama White House, is to blackmail us,” he said. “…This regime cannot even feed its own people, that is how much of a paper tiger this is.”

In July, analysts claimed that North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were finally advanced enough to reach the U.S. mainland. That same month, Scott Bray, national intelligence manager for East Asia, told The New York Times in a statement that North Korea’s ICBM tests highlighted “the threat that [its] nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose to the United States, to our allies in the region, and to the whole world.”

Any preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear program, however, would likely provoke a severe response. An analysis by Stratfor found that at least 3,000 South Koreans would be killed immediately. Some experts warn that there is no effective way to disarm Pyongyang.

“We can adapt,” says Robert E. Kelly, a political analyst and international relations professor at Pusan National University. He explains that, in the past, the United States has dealt with threats out of nations like Japan, and that this confrontation should be no different. “We’ve learned to work with Soviet, Chinese & Pakistani nukes without a war,” he continues on Twitter. “We don’t have to bomb North Korea.”

“North Korea likes to put up human shields,” he adds, referencing the high human casualties. To bomb North Korea, he says, would effectively kick-start “world war three”, with innocent civilians paying the price.

On Saturday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster warned that the United States was ready to use military action to combat that threat, if necessary. “If [North Korea] had nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it’s intolerable from the President’s perspective,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “Of course, we have to provide all options to do that, and that includes a military option.”