McCain: US should consider preemptive North Korea strike as ‘very last option’

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US Senator John McCain (L) speaks during a joint press conference with Montenegro's Defense Minister in Podgorica on April 12, 2017. US President Donald Trump signed off on Montenegro's accession to NATO on April 11, 2017, removing a potential hurdle to the Balkan nation becoming the alliance's 29th member. / AFP PHOTO / Savo PRELEVIC

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain says President Donald Trump should consider a preemptive strike on North Korea if the country is able to deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile, but only as a final option.

“I think that we have to consider that option as the very last option,” the Arizona Republican said Sunday in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, pointed to North Korea’s proximity to Seoul, the heavily populated capital of South Korea, saying that in a shooting war, “the carnage would be horrendous.”

The Arizona Republican, who was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, said the United States must pressure China to help persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and stop testing ballistic missiles.

“Their capabilities of firing artillery on Seoul is absolutely real,” McCain said. “And this is, again, why we have to bring every pressure to bear, and the major lever on North Korea today — and maybe the only lever — is China.”

“But to say you absolutely rule out that option, of course, would be foolish,” he said of the prospect of a preemptive strike. “But it has to be the ultimate last option.”