The top US nuclear commander has been quoted as saying that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an "illegal" launch of nuclear weapons.
CBS News says Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.
"I think some people think we're stupid," Gen Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. "We're not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?"
CBS News said Gen Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the US nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.
"As head of STRATCOM, I provide advice to the President, he will tell me what to do," he said.
"And if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm going to say, 'Mr President, that's illegal.' And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up [with] options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated."
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Gen Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: "If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life."
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gen Hyten's remarks.
They came after questions by US senators, including Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans, about Mr Trump's authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.
Mr Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to "totally destroy" the country of 26 million people if it threatened the US.