Bob Woodward claimed US President Donald Trump told him that the US was closer to war with North Korea than anyone knows. He said that former defence secretary James Mattis had been ordered to shoot down any missiles from North Korea which came to the US. In his new book titled Rage, Mr Woodward claimed Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanged personal letters and photographs.
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Woodward said: “The president told me that we came much closer to war with North Korea than anyone knows.
“The president said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told him that.
“The number one senior cabinet officer didn’t know if it was real or a bluff but the secretary of defence, James Mattis, has one responsibility and that is to protect the country.
“President Trump confirmed to me that he authorised Mr Mattis to shoot down a missile from North Korea if it was coming to the US.
“At that moment North Korea had a couple of dozen nuclear weapons well-concealed.
“Mr Mattis’ worry was if he shot down a North Korean missile, Kim would say, ‘now I’ve got to use all the weapons that I have’ and we would have had a nuclear war.”
The revelations come as analysts and security officials say they are watching for signs that North Korea may use an upcoming holiday to unveil new weapons or test fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), after a flurry of activity was detected at a key base.
Formations of troops have been seen practicing for what is expected to be a major military parade on October 10, the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
Some observers say North Korea may showcase its largest missiles for the first time since 2018.
Imagery analysts and security officials caution that so far there is no conclusive evidence of an impending launch.
But after several typhoons lashed North Korea in early September, satellite photos have shown a flurry of activity at the Sinpo South Shipyard, including in a secure basin where a barge used in previous underwater missile launches is docked.
Won In-choul, the nominee for chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “We’re monitoring developments, as there is a possibility that a submarine-launched ballistic missile test will be conducted there using ejection equipment shortly after the repair is done.”
Other South Korean officials have sounded less cautious, including incoming South Korean defence minister General Suh Wook, who said on Monday that he considered an SLBM test unlikely because there is too little time to prepare ahead of the anniversary.
On Thursday, Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, cited a single unnamed source near the shipyard as saying the site “is bustling with activity to prepare for the ballistic missile launch,” with officials and researchers arriving since late August.
38 North, a US-based think tank, said in a report on Wednesday that imagery showed “heavy activity” at the shipyard, but that “no other indicators of launch preparations were observed.”
On Thursday the group reported that the missile barge, which had disappeared from view after the storms, likely after being repositioned under a protective awning, had reappeared.