Graham: 30 percent chance Trump attacks North Korea if it conducts another missile test

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds The Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council MORE (R-S.C.) says there's a high probability that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE could attack North Korea if the country tests another nuclear bomb.

Graham told The Atlantic in an interview published Thursday he believes there is "a three in 10 chance we use the military option” if the country conducts another long-range ballistic missile test. He said the odds Trump attacks jump to "70 percent" if North Korea detonates another nuclear bomb.


“I don’t know how to say it any more direct: If nothing changes, Trump’s gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The foreign policy hawk said it would be an "all-out war against the regime" in that case.

“There is no surgical strike option. Their [nuclear-weapons] program is too redundant, it’s too hardened, and you gotta assume the worst, not the best. So if you ever use the military option, it’s not to just neutralize their nuclear facilities — you gotta be willing to take the regime completely down,” he said.

The South Carolina senator said he supports direct talks or a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

“I’m not taking anything off the table to avoid a war," he said. "When they write the history of the times, I don’t want them to say, ‘Hey, Lindsey Graham wouldn’t even talk to the guy.’ ”

Graham, who golfed with Trump on Sunday, said the topic of North Korea "comes up all the time.” 

He said the solution would be regime change in North Korea, whether China helps or not. China is Pyongyang's top benefactor.

The White House has repeatedly denied pursuing a regime change.

Graham's remarks come amid escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office MORE and the White House have sent mixed messages regarding the administration's stance toward North Korea after Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile late last month.

The sophistication of the Hwasong-15 missile — the latest in a series of missile launches — concerned officials who warned that the increasingly hostile state now is capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

Trump, who responded by putting in place new sanctions, has taken a hard-line stance against North Korea since taking office.

The two countries have intensified their rhetoric this year.

Trump in September warned that he will "totally destroy" North Korea if it continues to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

North Korea said earlier this month that the U.S. is “begging” for war after joint U.S.-South Korea aerial drills.