A senior US official denied on Friday that the US is mulling a so-called “bloody nose” strategy to carry out a limited military strike on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Yonhap quoted the unidentified official, who spoke on background to reporters, as saying that the term “bloody nose” has never been used in the White House or anywhere else in the Donald Trump administration.

“We were perplexed by all of the news reports over the past several weeks referring to a so-called bloody nose strategy,” the official said in a meeting with South Korean reporters here. “My colleagues and I, up to the highest level, have even this morning, we were saying, ‘Where does this phrase come from?’ because we’ve never used it.”

The denial follows increasing speculation that “hawks” in the Trump administration have been bending the president’s ear about the effectiveness of a measured attack on North Korean nuclear weapons and missile facilities that would stop short of all-out war and bring the regime to the bargaining table.