It was not just bluster. Perry later conceded that the administration seriously considered conducting “surgical strikes” against North Korea’s embryonic nuclear installations. Fortunately, former President Jimmy Carter enticed Clinton to let him approach Pyongyang and conduct talks to resolve the crisis peacefully. But it was a close call. And at no time during the episode did Clinton or his advisers even hint that South Korea’s wishes would have a major influence on Washington’s decision about launching air strikes. Seoul certainly would not have had a veto over U.S. policy.
The same problem arising from South Korea’s security dependence exists with the current crisis. The Trump administration has stressed on several occasions that all options, including military force, are on the table. Washington has escalated tensions by sending an aircraft carrier strike group to waters off the Korean Peninsula. Once again, there is no indication that even vociferous South Korean objections would dissuade the administration from launching attacks on North Korea, if it decided to do so