Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday argued that it’s time to begin moving the families of U.S. military personnel out of South Korea as tensions over North Korea continue to escalate.
During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the Republican senator stated he would urge the Pentagon to stop sending military spouses and children to the region.
“South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour. It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” Graham said. “So I want them to stop sending dependents. And I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
Graham warned the U.S. was “getting close to a military conflict” following Pyongyang’s test Wednesday of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Dubbed the Hwasong-15, the new nuclear-capable ICBM reached an altitude of roughly 4,475 km (2,780 miles) and traveled 950 km (590 miles) during its 53-minute flight – North Korea’s most successful missile test to date.
“We’re getting close to a military conflict because North Korea’s marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America but deliver the weapon. We’re running out of time,” Graham said Sunday.
Although the senator claimed the Trump administration’s policy is “to deny North Korea the capability” to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile, experts say the communist regime has almost certainly passed that threshold.
According to Michael Elleman, an IISS Senior Fellow for Missile Defence, analysis of photos and videos of the Hwasong-15 suggests Pyongyang can strike any location on the U.S. mainland with a nuclear payload.
“[I]t now appears that the Hwasong-15 can deliver a 1,000-kg payload to any point on the US mainland,” Elleman writes at 38 North. “North Korea has almost certainly developed a nuclear warhead that weighs less than 700 kg, if not one considerably lighter.”
Graham also threatened a “serious response” to any new underground nuclear tests and claimed preemptive war was fast becoming a potential reality.
“It now means preemptive war as a last resort,” the senator said. That is, preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures.”
“Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon means the marriage [of ICBMs with nuclear warheads] is more likely. I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned earlier this year that a preemptive war would likely result in “the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
On Monday the U.S. and South Korea conducted large-scale air force drills with 230 aircraft simulating strikes on North Korean nuclear and missile testing sites.
Pyongyang responded by saying the war games were bringing the Korean Peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war” before threatening to “seriously consider” countermeasures against the exercise.