WASHINGTON—Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged the Pentagon to start moving U.S. military dependents, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea is getting close.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“So I want them (the Pentagon) to stop sending dependents and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea,” Graham said. The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.
The new type of intercontinental ballistic missile can fly over 8,000 miles, placing Washington within range, South Korea said on Friday.
Graham said this development showed conflict is approaching.
“We’re getting close to military conflict because North Korea is marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that can not only get to America, but deliver the weapon. We’re running out of time,” Graham told CBS.
Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.
“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”
Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.
The Pentagon referred questions to the Pacific command, which was not immediately available for comment.
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump is prepared to take action against North Korea but is working to convince China, Russia and other nations to use more economic pressure to help curb its nuclear ambitions.
“The president’s going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves. But what we want to do is convince others, it is in their interest to do more,” McMaster said.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear weapons programs, including military ones, but that it still prefers a diplomatic option.
By Susan Cornwell
The Associated Press contributed to this report.