South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged Democrats to sign onto an authorization to use military force against North Korea as a precautionary measure in case Pyongyang and Washington fail to reach a diplomatic agreement during next week’s summit in Singapore.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Graham asked his Democratic colleagues, “If diplomacy fails, will you support my efforts to authorize the use of military force as a last resort to convince North Korea and China that things are going to be different this time?”
Graham made the remarks after saying he agreed with Democrats’ demands in letter to President Donald Trump that any nuclear agreement meet several standards, including requiring North Korea to denuclearize, scrap its ballistic missile program and allow robust inspections, before any easing of sanctions.
“A bipartisan AUMF would really make that letter much more credible, and if diplomacy fails, as a last resort, Democrats and Republicans need to put the military option on the table or we’ll never get a good deal,” added Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Some Senate Democrats didn’t endorse Graham’s proposal on Sunday.
“I love my friend Lindsey Graham, but I think first we need a chance at peace,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on the same program. Menendez was one of several Democratic senators who signed onto the letter to Trump.
“I think it’s important at this point in time, when North Korea has advanced its program so dramatically in terms of ability and nuclear power and its ballistic missile program, to define the deal as the complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula. And so let’s see what that brings us, first and foremost,” he added.
Asked whether he would sign onto an AUMF as an alternative, Menendez said, “I’m not ready to give an authorization for use of military force to this President or any other one until I understand the path for peace is not attainable, and the threat continues to be a real challenge to the national security of the United States, and we have all of the intelligence on a robust debate in the Senate on such an AUMF.”
“I have prepared AUMFs as the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before and voted for some,” he added. “I have voted against others. It depends on the totality of the circumstances. I can’t just jump on to the give the President the authority to have a switch in which he can engage in an attack, nuclear or otherwise, against north Korea.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, rebuffed Graham’s suggestion completely.
“There is no military solution to the problem on the Korean Peninsula,” Markey said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “North Korea has nuclear weapons. The United States has nuclear weapons. This isn’t like the United States and Iran. Iran did not have nuclear weapons. Neither did Iraq. This would become very catastrophic very quickly.”
Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “North Korea is on its way to becoming a clear and present danger to the United States.” She said she expects at a minimum for Trump to walk away from the summit with “an understanding that this is a real problem for us.”
“We will not let that problem stand, and the only alternative is to sit down and come up with an agreement and also make it such that there is an incentive for North Korea to do that,” she said.