The year 2018 will be one of “extreme danger” with regards to the standoff between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs, US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has warned.
Speaking to CBS on Sunday, Graham said US President Donald Trump should step up pressure on North Korea, including through threats of military action, to thwart the American adversary from developing nuclear arms.
He predicted there was a 70-percent chance that Washington would take military action against Pyongyang over the next 12 months should the North conduct a seventh nuclear test.
Chances of a nuclear conflict dropped to 30 percent if North Korea decided to test another long-range ballistic missile, said Graham, who supports an interventionist foreign policy.
“We’ve got a chance to deliver fatal blows to bad actors in 2018, but if we blink, God help us all,” the senator warned.
Often referred to as a “hawk,” Graham said “military force” was the only way Trump could force the North to abandon its weapons programs.
“2018 is going to be the year to deny North Korea the capability to hit the homeland,” Graham added. “Sanctions will never work completely without the threat of credible military force.”
In late November, Pyongyang successfully test-launched what American military experts said was a Hwasong-15 ICBM, the largest North Korean missile tested to date with a presumably long-enough range to deliver nuclear warheads deep into the US mainland.
David Schmerler, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), told CNN that Pyongyang “wanted (to be able) to hit all of the US and they wanted something big to hit it with,” and the new Hwasong-15 “seems on the surface level to be that missile.”
In response to the test, the US stepped up joint military drills with Japan and South Korea off the Korea Peninsula while pushing for economic pressure by drafting a new round of UN sanctions.
Pyongyang called the sanctions an “act of war” and said it will continue developing new weapons as a deterrent against the US and other adversaries.
In his New Year message, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un said his country’s nuclear capabilities were complete and there was always a nuclear launch button on his desk.
“The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office. They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality,” Kim said.