Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), said he would not blindly follow whatever order comes from US President Donald Trump, noting that the law of armed conflict that prohibits the use of disproportionate force and inflicting unnecessary suffering would be a higher authority when it comes to decision-making.
The remarks come in the wake of recent Senate debates on the US President's supposedly unquestionable authority to start a nuclear war. The top general says it's not as easy as pushing a red button. All the US top brass, himself included, are trained to disobey “illegal” orders, he added.
"I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do. And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm going to say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."
Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, Hyten said the US military is not exactly unprepared to hear the nuclear order.
"We're not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?" he said.
In his capacity as STRATCOM commander, Hyten oversees the US strategic nuclear triad, consisting of long-range bombers, land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Since Trump came into office, the US has taken a much harder stance on North Korea with the US leader regularly trading verbal barbs with the with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
While Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in his notorious speech at the UN, calling Kim a “rocket man…on a suicide mission,” Pyongyang responded by threatening to reduce the US to “ashes and darkness,” and North Korean state media “sentenced” the US leader to death.