UNITED STATES President Donald Trump has considered dropping bombs in North Korea as an option to stop Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programme, says a US senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham on Tuesday told American news programme Today Trump had discussed with him personally the option of going to war with the hermit kingdom amid its mounting threats to launch nuclear missiles at the US.
“He has told me that. I believe him,” Graham was quoted as saying.
Graham said Trump was committed to preventing North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un from having the capability to strike US with long-range missiles.
“If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And he has told me that to my face,” he said.
“And that may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States,” Graham said.
According to Today, military experts have said good options to peacefully resolve the North Korean problem were not available. The National Security Council had previously listed putting US nuclear weapons in South Korea or killing Kim Jong Un as possibilities.
Graham, however, disputed the opinion, saying the experts were wrong about the absence of good options.
“There is a military option to destroy North Korea’s programme and North Korea itself,” he said.
Trump’s administration has said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea, including military ones.
However, given the potential for massive casualties from North Korean retaliation in allied South Korea and Japan and among US troops there, the administration has stressed the need for a diplomatic solution.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said the US did not seek to topple the North Korean government and would like a dialogue with Pyongyang at some point, but only upon the understanding it can never be a nuclear power.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department days after Pyongyang tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Tillerson reiterated Washington sought to persuade North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear weapons programmes through peaceful pressure.
“We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel,” Tillerson said, as reported by Reuters.
“We are not your enemy … but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.”
“And we hope at some point they will begin to understand that and we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them,” Tillerson said.
However, he said “a condition of those talks is there is no future where North Korea holds nuclear weapons or the ability to deliver those nuclear weapons to anyone in the region, much less the (US) homeland”.
North Korea has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US and officials have said the latest test had shown it may now be able to reach most of the country.
Tillerson repeated calls for North Korea‘s neighbour and ally China, which has urged a resumption of talks with Pyongyang, to use its influence to create the conditions for “productive dialogue.”
He said other options were “not particularly attractive.”
Additional reporting by Reuters