"If we saw they were preparing to do so and it was imminent, I could imagine it". "That doesn't mean, over the course of the next several months, one might not develop, but I don't see it today".
The committee's Democrats also expressed concerns about whether the military could refuse to obey an order to launch nuclear weapons.
Trump in August warned North Korea against threatening the United States: "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen".
A U.S. B-52 bomber flies over Osan Air Base in South Korea.
The experts testifying at the hearing said that while the protocols for nuclear weapons use give the president unilateral control when the United States is under attack from a nuclear strike, the commander in chief is far more restrained when trying to initiate a pre-emptive strike.
USA senators probed the limits of a president's unilateral power to launch a nuclear attack Tuesday, an increasingly weighty debate as tensions rise between an unpredictable Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
"I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way to - because of a distrust of this president, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent", testified Brian McKeon, a former undersecretary of defense under Barack Obama.
Kehler said the military could refuse to strike if the order were illegal.
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One issue under debate was the concept of imminent threat, when the president believes a country poses a sufficient immediate danger for the United States to order a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, reminded the committee that "the system is not a button the president can accidentally lean on, against, on the desk and immediately cause nuclear missiles to fly".
In a statement last week, the committee's chairman, Republican Sen.
However, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) didn't think military resistance would be enough assurance. Under current rules, a president could launch a nuclear strike by entering codes into a device known as "the football" - a briefcase that always travels with the president - and is not obligated to consult other government officials.
Only three other Democrats have co-sponsored it. In recent months, lawmakers have insisted the president seek Congress's approval before revoking any sanctions against Russian Federation, and momentum is building for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) to address the military's current and future operations against the Islamic State and other extremist groups. The committee's Republican chairman, Bob Corker, accused President Trump last month of setting the U.S. "on a path to World War III". "But I believe that congressional oversight does not equate to operational control". James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said. During his recent trip to the region, however, Trump dialed back the rhetoric and said he hoped North Korea would "come to the table and make a deal" and back down from its nuclear aims.
"I would be very anxious about a miscalculation based on continued use of his Twitter account with regard to North Korea", Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary of policy at the Pentagon, testified.
"Doesn't it also suggest it's important for the commander in chief to also be cautious in how he talks about this issue so there is not a miscalculation on the part of our aggressors who would do us harm about what the real intent here is?" Sen.