The top commander of U.S. nuclear forces, John E. Hyten says he would push back if U.S. President Donald Trump asked him to carry out an order he deemed “illegal.”
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten told the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday that he and Trump have discussed what would happen if the president ordered a nuclear strike he believed to be unlawful under international law.
Hyten said, “I think some people think we’re stupid. We’re not stupid people.We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”
Hyten would be in charge of U.S. nuclear forces in a war. If Trump decided to launch a nuclear attack, Hyten would provide him with strike options, and the president would make his decision.
Hyten said he is trained every year in the laws of armed conflict —which are guided by principles that include necessity. Under that framework, carrying out an illegal order is a punishable offence.
Hyten made the remarks while participating on a panel called “Nukes: The Fire and the Fury,” an apparent reference to Trump’s threats to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea this summer.
Hyten said the U.S. can defend itself against North Korea’s nuclear threats.