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Graham: War with the North is ‘more likely’

Dec 05,2017
Washington insiders are indicating that North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is close to being a game changer for the United States, with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pointing out that pre-emptive war is “becoming more likely” as Pyongyang’s weapons technology “matures.”

“We’re getting close to a military conflict because North Korea’s marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America but deliver the weapon,” Graham, a former Republican presidential hopeful, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We’re running out of time.”

His remarks follow North Korea’s launch of what it calls the Hwasong-15 ICBM into the East Sea Wednesday, which officials have said could have flown 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) and puts the U.S. mainland in range.

When asked how close the United States was to a military confrontation, Graham replied that he had an “extensive discussion” with the Donald Trump administration on this topic and said, “If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, the largest one to date, on Sept. 3, which resulted in strong international condemnation, including the adoption of a new UN Security sanctions resolution, capping crude oil shipments to the country, as well as unilateral measures by countries including the United States and South Korea.

Graham described that the policy of the Trump administration “is to deny North Korea the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile, not to contain it.”

He added, “Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. That pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures.”

He pointed out that China is “trying” on the issue “but ineffectively,” in remarks indicating Washington may have to resort to military actions unless Beijing does more.

Graham also urged the Pentagon “not to send any more dependents to South Korea.”

“South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” said Graham. “It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea… And I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”

Some 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Korea. According to a U.S. Department of Defense assessment, another war on the Korean Peninsula could produce up to 300,000 South Korean and U.S. military casualties within the first 90 days and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

Graham said that as commander-in-chief, Trump has the authority to “strike North Korea to protect the American homeland,” but that the discussion of waging a pre-emptive war has to happen in the U.S. Congress.

Similarly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday” warned that the United States is always ready to take unilateral action on North Korea, stating, “Well, the president’s going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves.”

He added, “But what we want to do is convince others, it is in their interest to do more.”

McMaster elaborated, “What we’re asking China to do is, not do us or anybody else a favor, but to act in China’s interest.”

Asked on the potential for a “preventive war” if a diplomatic solution fails, McMaster skirted a direct answer and replied, “I don’t think you or anybody else is willing to bet the farm, or a U.S. city on the… rational decision-making of Kim Jong-un.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]