White House aide Sebastian Gorka said Thursday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was out of line with remarks he made a day earlier assuring Americans that military action against North Korea is not imminent, telling BBC radio that it was “nonsensical” for the nation’s chief diplomat to speak on military issues.
“The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical,” Gorka said in the interview, which was reported by The Washington Post. “It is the job of Secretary Mattis, the secretary of defense, to talk about the military options, and he has done so unequivocally … That is his mandate. Secretary Tillerson is the chief diplomat of the United States, and it is his portfolio to handle those issues.”
Aboard his aircraft Wednesday en route to Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific that North Korea threatened this week to destroy with an “enveloping fire,” Tillerson told reporters that “Americans should sleep well at night” and that “I do not believe that there is any imminent threat.” The secretary’s efforts to tamp down rhetoric came after a warning from President Donald Trump, who said North Korea would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to threaten the U.S.
Contrary to what Tillerson said, Gorka seemed to suggest to the BBC that a military conflict with North Korea is a distinct possibility. Asked by an interviewer if North Korea should expect an attack if its actions are understood as threatening, Gorka seemed to imply just that.
“If you threaten a nation, then what should you expect — a stiffly worded letter that would be sent by courier?” he said. “Is that what the U.K. would do if a nation threatened a nuclear-tipped missile launched against any of the United Kingdom’s territories?”
In a portion of the interview reported by BuzzFeed, Gorka also compared North Korea’s threats against the U.S. to those of Nazis against European Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust. He relayed an anecdote that he said came from a survivor of the Holocaust, who said the lesson he had learned from the ordeal was that “when a group of people repeatedly says they want to kill you, sooner or later you should take them seriously.”
“North Korea has said they wish to annihilate the United States and use nuclear weapons. Sooner or later someone should take them seriously,” Gorka said. “The Clinton administration did not do so. The Obama administration did not do so. That stopped on January the 20th. We are not giving in to nuclear blackmail any longer.”