Do Americans Want War With North Korea? Republicans Far More Likely to Support Preemptive Strike Than Democrats

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If President Donald Trump were to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea today it seems most Republican voters would be on his side, according to a new poll. Getty Images

If President Donald Trump were to launch a preemptive strike against North Korea today it seems most Republican voters would be on his side, a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October and released Tuesday shows.

The poll found 68 percent of Republican voters feel the use of force against countries that may seriously threaten the U.S., but have not attacked it, can "often" or "sometimes" be justified. This number is much lower than under former President George W. Bush in 2004—roughly a year into the Iraq War—when 83 percent of Republicans expressed the same view. But it's also significantly higher than the number of Democrats who would currently support a preemptive strike, which stood at 38 percent.

Overall, half of Americans (50 percent) said using military force against countries that seriously threaten the U.S.—but have not attacked it—would be often (12 percent) or sometimes (38 percent) be justified. Comparatively, 48 percent said it can rarely (28 percent) or never (20 percent) be justified.

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North Korea is believed to have anywhere from 25 to 60 nuclear weapons. Getty Images

Have Americans learned any lessons from the disastrous 2003 Iraq War, which was preemptive, condemned by the international community and viewed by many, including the U.N., as illegal? It's hard to say.

Based on Pew's research, the number of Americans who would support a preemptive strike has declined somewhat over the past eight years. During former President Barack Obama's first year in office, for example, 52 percent of Americans said the use of preemptive military force by the U.S. was sometimes or often justified. Meanwhile, 41 percent said it was rarely or never justified, meaning there's been a roughly seven point jump in the number of people who feel this way since 2009.

But this still goes to show that America, which has the most powerful military in the world, has the support of much of the public when it comes to using force against other countries—even when it has not been attacked.

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The U.S. military has roughly 28,500 troops in South Korea. Getty Images

This subject has been on many people's minds as Trump was exchanged threats with North Korea's Kim Jong Un and threatened to "totally destory" the reclusive nation. Trump's top advisers have signified a preference for a diplomatic resolution to hostilities related to Pyongyang's nuclear program, but the president has sometimes implied a military option is the only solution to this issue. At the moment, neither the U.S. nor North Korea appear willing to make any concessions that might bring relevant parties to the negotiation table.

North Korea is believed to have between 25 and 60 nuclear weapons. The larger question is whether it's developed the technology to successfully launch a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. But if the U.S. went to war with North Korea, it would be going up against a nuclear power that directly threatens millions in South Korea and Japan, as well as in Guam, where thousands of U.S. military personnel are stationed. The Pentagon has concluded a ground invasion would be necessary to succesfully eliminate all of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

If a war broke out between the U.S. and North Korea, it would be very bloody. A recent assessment from the Congressional Research Service estimated as many as 300,000 could die in the first few days of fighting—even without the use of nuclear weapons.