President Trump is "willing" to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea to prevent the regime from having the capability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon, according to a top Senate Republican.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday "our policy has changed dramatically" under Trump, who doesn't want North Korea to be allowed to develop the technology required for a nuclear strike on the United States. Graham added he wants Congress to vote to authorize the use of military force against North Korea, even though he believes Trump doesn't need the permission.
"We cannot allow the capability to mature in North Korea that could put every American sitting in the crosshairs of a nuclear attack by a very unstable, provocative leader of North Korea," Graham told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. "We're going to deny that capability, and our policy has changed dramatically, and we're trying to make sure that our allies and our enemies know that."
Graham is a traditional Republican foreign policy hawk of the sort Trump denounced during the 2016 presidential campaign, but he maintained he and the president agree on the new North Korea policy.
"If negotiations fail, he is willing to abandon strategic patience and use pre-emption. I think he's there mentally. He has told me this," Graham said. "So I'm 100 percent confident that if President Trump had to use military force to deny the North Koreans the capability to strike America with a nuclear-tipped missile, he would do that. And he's going to listen to sound military advice, but he's made a decision in his own mind not to let that happen on his watch."
He said an attack to pre-empt North Korea from even possessing the technology to nuke the United States, much less attempting to, is necessary because the regime sells weapons to bad actors around the world.
"They'll sell the technology over time, and I don't believe our missile defense systems are that good," Graham said. "Containment is a bad idea. Denial of the capability is the right approach."
Graham's rhetoric might have a foreign audience, as well. He suggested if China believes the United States is prepared to go to war with North Korea, they might be more willing to pressure the pariah state. And he wants Congress to pass an authorization for the use of military force against North Korea, in order to send a message to China.
"War will only happen if China completely fails in stopping North Korea," he said. "It would be very smart if the Congress could come together and tell the president, 'you have our authorization to use military force to stop the threat to the homeland as a last resort.' That would send a signal to North Korea and China that would probably do more good to avoid war than anything I can think of."