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Retired Army colonel: I don't think 'we're going to war over Korea'

  • Neither North Korea nor the U.S. is interested in going to war over North Korea's nuclear weapons, Col. Jack Jacobs says.
  • He said he doesn't believe Pyongyang will give up its nuclear capability, because it keeps the nation's "continuing criminal enterprise" in business.
  • For any agreement to be reached, China must be at the table, he said.

Tensions may be escalating over North Korea and its nuclear capabilities, but retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs told CNBC on Wednesday he doesn't think "we're going to war over Korea."

Jacobs, the recipient of the Medal of Honor, said North Korea is "basically a continuing criminal enterprise, and having nuclear weapons keeps them pretty much in business."

"Neither they nor the United States nor anybody else is interested in going to war over their nuclear weapons," he said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

President Donald Trump warned North Korea on Tuesday it would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the United States. A short time later, Pyongyang said it was considering firing missiles at Guam.

On Wednesday the commentary continued from members of the Trump administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed Trump's warning, saying the president was just trying to send a strong message. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis said North Korea must stop any action that would "lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Jacobs doesn't see North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons anytime soon.

"The fact of the matter is they are unlikely to give it up unless we and China and Russia can reach some sort of accord with them that guarantees that they can continue to be a continuing criminal enterprise, that they can do whatever they want to their own people as long as they don't have nuclear weapons," he said.

And he doesn't think the U.S. can go it alone.

"As long as we don't have China on our side to go all the way down to the wire at the table, behind closed doors by the way, we're not going to get anything done, and they will continue to be a threat not only to us but to everybody in the region," he said.

— Reuters contributed to this report.