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Bill Nelson joins grave warnings about North Korea, Vladimir Putin’s cyber warfare

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson expressed grave warning about North Korea now that it has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile but called it a “vexing problem” that has no clear solutions.

Nelson said the United States has only two options, seeking a diplomatic solution, which he suggested does not seem to be working, or military force, and said one other the other has to solve North Korea’s ambitions in the next couple of years.

In a wide-ranging talk with Orlando press Wednesday, Nelson also said he thinks the United States must consider the option of a massive cyber attack on Russia if Russian President Vladimir Putin refuses to stop hacking into the United States’ or other democratic countries’  systems in attempts to steer elections.

But Nelson turned most grave in talking about North Korea, which successfully launched an ICBM on Tuesday.

“North Korea is one of the most vexing problems we have because they are in inevitably moving forward, building a missile with a greater range, plus minimizing a nuclear weapon, and ultimately they will integrate a nuclear weapon with an ICBM. That is a real threat to the United States,” Nelson said.

“What we want to do is achieve it diplomatically. We have tried with China through the past four presidents. It hasn’t worked,” Nelson continued. “We will make an initial attempt to get China to step in to avoid a military conflict. There is no good scenario in a military conflict, because of the ability that North Korea has to shell South Korea, especially the capital, Seoul, which has a couple of million residents, plus a couple hundred thousand Americans living in the vicinity.”

Nelson called it a dilemma that the United States will have to solve.

“If we can’t solve it diplomatically then we will have to solve it militarily,” he conceded.

Nelson touched on several international and American national security issues, including President Donald Trump‘s upcoming meeting with Putin, and Vice President Mike Pence‘s visit to Kennedy Space Center Thursday, and signals from the administration that it is considering creating an independent military branch for space.

“Vladimir Putin cannot beat us on land. He can’t beat us on or under the sea. He can’t beat us in the air. And he can’t beat us in space. But he can beat us in cyber,” Nelson said.

“That ought to be the talk between our president and Vladimir Putin, for him to stop his cyber attacks, or else we should unleash such a punishing cyber attack on him that he would never try it again, and that includes messing in our elections, and in the elections of others, just as he’s doing right now with the German elections, in the German parliament.

What kind of attack did Nelson have in mind?

“Well, now you’re talking super-classified,” said the ranking member on the U.S. Senate’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

Nelson will be joining Pence on his tour Thursday of Kennedy Space Center, and said he has spoken with the vice president several times about space policy and priorities, and suggested they are in general agreement, including reformation of the National Space Council, a White House panel dormant for 24 years before Trump reactivated it Tuesday.

However, Nelson dismissed talk from the Trump administration of establishing a space armed service, and transferring the space command from the U.S. Air Force. Nelson praised the Air Force for running the country’s military space programs, calling the idea of a space branch of the military, “way too premature.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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