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Story highlights

The military options being considered could risk thousands of lives

US officials told CNN last month that revised military options for North Korea have been prepared

Washington CNN —  

The Trump administration has said it’s ready to unleash American military might to back its diplomacy when it comes to preventing North Korea from developing a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States.

But there is no easy military solution to the crisis and several of the options potentially under consideration could risk thousands of lives.

US officials told CNN last month that revised military options for North Korea have been prepared and were ready to be presented to President Donald Trump.

“What we have to do is prepare all options because the President has made clear to us that he will not accept a nuclear power in North Korea and a threat that can target the United States and target the American population,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said last month during remarks at a Washington think tank.

However it remains unclear whether those updated response options have been laid out for the President in the wake of North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday – the second ICBM test conducted by Pyongyang within a month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un touted the test as a success and claimed the “whole US mainland” is now within range of his missiles.

But last week a US official told CNN that the US government doesn’t believe North Korea will be able to launch a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile until early 2018.

The official said that while North Korea can currently get a missile “off the ground,” a lot of undetermined variables remain about guidance, reentry and the ability to hit a specific target.

However, last week’s test shows that Pyongyang’s missile program may be more advanced than previously thought – an assessment that has raised new questions around how the US military might carry out a strike on North Korea and the potential fallout if they did.

While all war game scenarios show the US winning a military confrontation, that victory could come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly in South Korea where millions of innocent people – and nearly 30,000 US troops – are already in range of North Korea’s current missile capabilities.

“Destroy North Korea itself”

When asked about the US government’s strategy on handling North Korea, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested Tuesday using military options to halt threats from the country.

“There is a military option to destroy North Korea’s (missile) program and North Korea itself,” Graham said on NBC’s “Today” show. “If there’s going to be a war to stop them, it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there, they’re not going to die here and (President Donald Trump) told me that to my face.”

He continued: “I’m saying (military options are) inevitable if North Korea continues.”

While Trump condemned last week’s missile launch and said the United States would act to ensure its security, both he and Vice President Mike Pence have offered few specifics when it comes to a plan on North Korea.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Tuesday that all options are on the table, but she put some distance between the White House and Graham’s comments that there are military options to destroy the country.

“The President obviously has been very outspoken about how he feels about North Korea. We are weighing all options, keeping all options on the table, and as we have said many times, we are not going to broadcast what we are going to do,” Sanders said.

Pushed on Graham’s comments that the US could destroy the country, Sanders said, “Not what I am saying, what I am saying is the President has been very outspoken about the need to stop North K