McInerney spent 35 years in uniform upon graduation from the United States Military Academy. He rose to vice commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and served as vice chief of staff, the number three position in the Air Force.
He told WND and Radio America North Korea’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, on Monday raises the stakes in this standoff to a whole new level.
“He is a man who is unstable enough that if he ever got a nuclear ICBM that could reach the United States, we must fully respect that and understand it. It is unacceptable to us as Americans that we could have North Korea being able to put U.S. cities at risk,” McInerney said.
He is advocating a multi-pronged approach to confronting North Korea that he hopes won’t require military force. However, he said the current posture is untenable and Americans cannot rely on existing missile-defense technology to protect them.
“We are at risk,” McInerney said. “That’s all I can say. We are at risk.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney:
McInerney urged the Trump administration to start with an aggressive diplomatic and economic campaign to force Kim Jong-un into line.
“Number one, increase the diplomatic pressure on China and Russia by the global community, starting this Friday during President Trump’s visit to Germany,” McInerney advised. “Next, we’ve got to increase the economic sanctions on China and Russia and other countries that are doing business with North Korea, and I mean very tough sanctions.”
He also wants to see the creation of a NATO-like organization in the Pacific, whereby the U.S. could partner with the likes of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines in putting pressure on Pyongyang.
The general said North Korea’s increased belligerence is due in part to President Obama’s lack of action with respect to missile defense, sanctions and tough diplomacy.
“Clearly, the Obama administration was not interested in pursuing an aggressive missile-defense capability, as he was not interested in getting the North Koreans to slow their program down,” he said. “So we have not had much help in this dangerous area for the last eight years.”
McInerney is confident that aggressive sanctions can succeed against North Korea and China, which helped to facilitate Monday’s ICBM launch. But he said leadership also requires a significant buildup in the event peaceful efforts fail.
He foresees the need for a multi-faceted buildup.
“First, we’ve got to build up the forces in [the western Pacific] to include more air power, to include our latest aircraft – the F-22s, F-35s, B-2 stealth aircraft,” said McInerney, who also wants to see accelerated production of massive munitions like the Mother of All Bombs, or MOAB, and the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, and cruise missiles.
“We need to build up the Marine amphibious forces in the western Pacific out around Okinawa. We need to build up some of the ground forces,” he added, noting that South Korea’s competent ground troops would minimize the need for U.S. troops on the peninsula.
McInerney is also pleading with South Korea to allow the implementation of the THAAD missile defense program to proceed. Currently, the South Korean government is holding up the effort while waiting for an environmental review.
“And we’ve got to build up our Naval forces to include at least two carriers,” he added. “I believe we need three, as well as both missile defense forces … as well as cruise missile capabilities.”
But he went a step further in urging the military to be prepared for the nuclear option, including the staging of personnel in Japan and South Korea and readying nuke-carrying bombers in Guam. He also urged the U.S. to allow allies in the region of have access to nukes.
McInerney said the U.S. knows exactly where all the critical military sites are in North Korea, and just one B-2 bomber run with conventional weapons could have a devastating impact.
“One B-2 can drop 80 500-pound bombs with GPS guidance and take out 80 of those artillery sites right away,” he explained. “A MOAB could knock out 50 artillery sites at once perhaps.”
Again, McInerney believes military action can be avoided, but he said being ready for a fight is prudent.
“They need to know we mean business and, if we have to, we will use the full conventional and nuclear retaliatory capabilities of the United States against this threat,” he said.