When asked about the US government’s strategy on handling North Korea, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested Tuesday using military options to halt threats from the country.
“There is a military option to destroy North Korea’s (missile) program and North Korea itself,” Graham said on NBC’s “Today” show. “If there’s going to be a war to stop them, it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there, they’re not going to die here and (President Donald Trump) told me that to my face.”
He continued: “I’m saying (military options are) inevitable if North Korea continues.”
While Trump condemned last week’s missile launch and said the United States would act to ensure its security, both he and Vice President Mike Pence have offered few specifics when it comes to a plan on North Korea.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Tuesday that all options are on the table, but she put some distance between the White House and Graham’s comments that there are military options to destroy the country.
“The President obviously has been very outspoken about how he feels about North Korea. We are weighing all options, keeping all options on the table, and as we have said many times, we are not going to broadcast what we are going to do,” Sanders said.
Pushed on Graham’s comments that the US could destroy the country, Sanders said, “Not what I am saying, what I am saying is the President has been very outspoken about the need to stop North Korea. We have been very focused on stopping the nuclear program, stopping the missiles, stopping the aggression, that still continues to be the focus and we are keeping those all options on the table to do that.”
However, in a recent exchange with Graham on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary James Mattis took an unusually specific stand on US military policy. Graham asked: “Is it the policy of the Trump administration to deny North Korea the capability of building an ICBM that can hit the American homeland with a nuclear weapon on top? Is that the policy?”
- The military options being considered could risk thousands of lives
- US officials told CNN last month that revised military options for North Korea have been prepared
“Yes,” Mattis answered.
Analysts raise several issues when it comes to military options against North Korea — one being former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn” rule of foreign relations: You break it, you own it.
A military operation against North Korea would saddle the US with expanded costs and responsibility on the peninsula.
It would roil Asia and China, perhaps with unintended consequences.
What can the US military do?
Though considered by many to be the worst case scenario, the plan described by Graham illustrates a harsh reality surrounding using military force against North Korea.
While the US would undoubtedly emerge victorious in a major military conflict with North Korea, any option that calls for a preemptive strike would likely result in a reciprocal attack by Pyongyang on South Korea that would inflict serious casualties and risk the lives of thousands including US troops stationed there.