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tv   Washington Journal Aaron Mehta Discusses U.S. Nuclear Capabilities  CSPAN  August 12, 2017 4:20pm-4:31pm EDT

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announcer: shortly, we will go back live to atlanta for more coverage of the netroots conference the annual gathering , of progressives, activist, and organizers. still to come today, the former vice president al gore .today is gore. while we wait to get started, we will show you some of the discussion on u.s. nuclear capabilities from today's washington journal. host: the senior pentagon correspondent and associate editor with the defense news,
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thank you for being with us. guest: thank you for having me. host: we will start with tape from president trump who has been talking about the nuclear korean threat. here is what he said. president trump: i would like to denuke the world. president obama said global warming was the biggest threat, i disagree. nuclear is the greatest threat, no question, not even close. i would like russia and the united states and china and pakistan and any other countries that have nuclear weapons, get rid of them. until such time as they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on earth by far. the first order i give to my generals, as you know, you know mike, my first order was i want our nuclear arsenal to be the biggest and finest in the world. we spent a lot of money, a lot
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of time and a lot of effort, and it is in tiptop shape and getting better, and getting stronger. this scorchime that disappears, we will be so much better and stronger than anybody else. host: the president as we know by now, likes to speak and superlatives, but is the nuclear arsenal larger and more powerful? guest: no. when we talk about modernizing nuclear weapons, it is certainly expansion, but it takes time. things that take years to decades, not from the night can happen in six months. the obama administration left office with a plan well underway, but it will take years and years to get to completion, so the idea the president came in and told the generals we need to make our nuclear weapons that are, stronger, faster and harder and it happened in six months,
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that is not true. host: what does it mean to modernize the arsenal, what is involved? guest: it is based around the nuclear triad, meaning you have air based and weapons. in the current set up, cbms on the ground, submarines that can launch of the nuclear weapons, bombers that can drop cruise missiles essentially, so what is the status of those? those are aging and this was a focus at the end of the obama administration because the pentagon began to realize, we let these things lapse. the cold war was over, we do not need nuclear weapons. as the posture has changed, china has been spending money building up their military, and north korea escalations --north korea relations have escalated, so we need to make sure that we are credible. now there are plans underway,
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the first part is modernizing the nuclear submarines. in the next couple weeks, we expect the first step to modernize the icm's and we are working on the cruise missiles. these are things that are well underway. they are working on control issues, nuclear warheads they are working on, these are things that have been in the works since 2010, that is when the plan was laid out. host: there is a tweet from the president, who wrote "military solutions are in place, locked and loaded. hopefully kim jong-un will find another path." he made the point yesterday that he does not see a diplomatic solution on the horizon, he said that over the last several administrations, clinton, bush and obama, they have tried diplomacy and has not worked. the arsenal of north korea has grown unabated. does he have a point that the tough rhetoric might be the thing that changes the regime and makes him think twice?
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guest: i do not know if it will make them think twice. you have seen diplomacy as tools. in 1994, 1 north korean regime gained nuclear capability and they had the trump card over the rest of the world. at that point, and the reason they pursued the nuclear program was because they knew that once they had nuclear could abilities, the u.s. could not go in and take them out without risking the loss of friendly, millions of lives in south korea and japan. and those lives were already at risk because they had a massive military about 50 miles from the border and it has been in the range of missiles. is the correct way to go about this to change the rhetoric? it may be, there are probably cases for that. but the reality is, with the put, koreans now able to are likely to have a nuclear
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icbm in the future, you cannot go in and threaten them because they know essentially that they have this thing and it means you cannot threaten them without risking billions of lives. host: how has their program grown so quickly? they are cut off from the rest of the world and they have been living under sections, yet their nuclear program has advanced at a pace that most analysts did not project or expect. guest: it is interesting. in terms of money, it has had a long history of being a -- state. they have weapons. and they have enacted slavery, in some ways. they have boys had people that are willing to fund them. the banks under section every other year for helping korea. in terms of how they advance, the reality is they put their entire scientific and industrial base toward this. this was decided that this is the one thing we need to survive. themember, the kim family,
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purpose has always been to keep the kim family in power. the idea is not to become a world dominating -- maybe it would be nice if they could take back south korea and unify the peninsula. there is love lost with japan and china, but it is all about keeping the family in place. they know if they start a nuclear war, the kim family will not be in place. they will take a lot of people with them, but they will be out. what they are looking to is have something that said, you cannot take us out, that is where we are at. host: talking with erin meda. -- aaron med. give us a call. independents, (202) 748-8002. guam was in the news for the first time in a while this week. if north korea did threaten guam, how quickly could be u.s. respond?
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aaron: so what does threatening guam mean? what came out of the north korean news wire that translates statements in english to essentially tell the world what they are trying to say, was -- it was very detailed, it said we will launch four missiles within the range of guam and there were two things, one they will target a u.s. territory. it is not hitting it, but in the territory. and it would require missiles to fly over japan, which has been a no-no. they always drop the missiles into the sea of japan before it reaches territory. it is a step up, absolutely. the question is, will they follow through? and we have seen a complete lack of change in the american military posture in the pacific. there is a lot of rhetoric, a lot of concern, but we actually look at this and we called sources and we tracked the ship movements and nobody is moving.
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if the u.s. really thought these were about to go off, or expected to launch, you would see the missile defense ships going, you would to the carriers. it is not happening right now. host: if they did do that, that would be a provocative act, right? if they decided to move their troops and families out of south korea, north korea would say, something is about to happen. aaron: and it gets interesting, because there are two sides. the inspection of communication going on, but essentially we have two sides that we are trying to reach, the president going off script. furyow that the fire and statement that really kicked the next round of chaos off was off-the-cuff, according to his own sources, people inside the white house. notthe two sides trying really to talk to each other, going to back channels, make sure they are signaling. it is interesting the u.s. is not doing this, because that says that people in the pentagon and the white house are saying,
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let's be smart about this. one key thing is, we therethe last 48 hours, have been no flights. it is a usual thing to show support for south korea. those about happened in quite a while. that is a conscious decision. >> we have to get some calls in and spread the love. >> who does not want the voice of god? how are you all doing? good afternoon. everyone sounds worn out. are you worn out? a little tired?

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