Trump without authority to strike N. Korea absent imminent threat: secretaries
10:55, Tuesday, 31 October, 2017
US President Donald Trump is not authorized to strike North Korea in the absence of an imminent threat, two of his Cabinet members said Monday. Under the US Constitution, the right to declare war lies with Congress unless there is a direct or imminent attack on the country, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, agreeing with lawmakers during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Tillerson noted, however, that the president's final decision will be "fact-based" and depend on the circumstances.Mattis offered a similar view. "I believe under Article II, he has a responsibility, obviously, to protect the country and if there was not time, I could imagine him not consulting or consulting as he's doing something along the lines, for example, of what we did at Shayrat Air Field in Syria when we struck that and the Congress was notified immediately," he said. "But in this case of North Korea, it would be a direct imminent or actual attack on the United States I think Article II would apply." There was no clear answer to what an imminent threat would be, even when asked if it could be North Korea's possession of a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the US. "I'm always reluctant to get into too many hypotheticals because the possession could be sitting in an underground, not-ready-to-be-used condition or the possession could be sitting upright on a TEL (transporter erector launcher), about to be launched," Tillerson said. "So again, I think it would have to be fact-based and given consideration as to the circumstances around an imminent threat." Mattis added, "I fully agree with Secretary Tillerson. I think this is an area that a number of facts would have to bear on the problem in order to give you a complete answer."