SIMI VALLEY, Calif – While laying out a tease of President Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security advisor, warned that “there’s not much time left” to deal with the threat from North Korea.

McMaster, speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum, identified North Korea as the greatest threat to the United States, adding that it is “increasing every day” and saying North Korean Kim Jong Un is “getting closer and closer” to having a full nuclear deterrent.

McMaster also reiterated that the administration still seeks denuclearization from Pyongyang as the end goal, something experts warn is no longer possible following a year of ICBM tests that have shown greater and greater range, with the most recent launch having come Nov. 28.

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Earlier Saturday, CNN reported that the latest launch broke up upon re-entry into earth’s atmosphere, which would indicate flaws remain for North Korea to overcome before it would be able to place a nuclear weapon into the United States.

More broadly, McMaster used his speech to offer a small preview of the administration’s’ upcoming National Security Strategy.

The core of the NSS will be on “reclaiming American’s strategic confidence,” a phrase McMaster used several times during his speech. He identified four key components to the strategy -- “focus on protecting our homeland, advancing American prosperity, preserving peace through strength and, finally enhancing American influence” – but few specifics.

Among other topics covered by the three-star general: that arming Ukraine remains the policy of the administration, that some countries have “cheated” America on trade deals that will now be renegotiated, that it is “very hard” to see a future Syria including Bashar al-Assad, and that he supports sanctions against Russia, saying that are “relevant to countering Russia’s destabilizing behavior and we’re moving out on that as fast as we can.”


Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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