Sen. Lindsey Graham boldly predicted that President Donald Trump would take the country to war with North Korea if Kim Jong-un makes additional provocations.
Graham told The Atlantic in an interview that appeared on the magazine's website Thursday that another nuclear test would be the final straw.
"I would say there's a three in 10 chance we use the military option," Graham said. Upping the odds in the case of a seventh test, he replied, "I would say 70 percent."
A foe-turned-friend of the president's, Graham has been spending more and more time with Trump. The Republican senator was in Palm Beach golfing with Trump last weekend, reports Daily Mail.
He's also been to see Trump at the White House this month.
As such, he said he has insight into Trump's mindset on North Korea.
"It comes up all the time," he told The Atlantic.
Graham told the publication "we're not to the tipping point yet" with North Korea. "If they test another [nuclear] weapon, then all bets are off."
"War with North Korea is an all-out war against the regime," he said. "There is no surgical strike option. Their 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."
A defense hawk who sits on the Senate's Budget, Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, Graham has been working with Trump on a long-term spending deal that would fund a mutually desired military build-up.
Trump has asked for more subs, soldiers and military aircraft, as well as the removal of an inhibiting budgetary control cap.
"We need our military. It's got to be perfecto," Trump on Tuesday said.
Bringing up North Korea, Trump said in his remarks at bill signing that pertained to Pentagon spending: 'It approves missile defense capabilities as we continue our campaign to create maximum pressure on the vile dictatorship in North Korea.
"We're working very diligently on that — building up forces. We'll see how it all turns out.
"It's a very bad situation — a situation that should have been handled long ago by other administrations," he stated.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican who faced off against Trump in the GOP primary last year, has been warning that 'time is running out' with respect to North Korea, which has continued with its ballistic missile and nuclear tests in the face of heavy international sanctions.
"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," Graham told The Atlantic in the interview that dropped this week.
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday said that North Korea isn't an imminent threat to the U.S.
"It has not yet shown to be a capable threat against us right now," Mattis said in response to a reporter.
Mattis said that forensic analysis is still being done on a Nov. 29 missile test.
The Trump administration has said it would be willing to engage in diplomatic talks with Kim's government under the right conditions.
Graham told The Atlantic that he believed the U.S. government should entertain a conversation 'without a whole lot of preconditions.'
"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.'"
The Trump administration has said that it is not seeking regime change in North Korea. Graham told the Atlantic that might be unavoidable.
North Korea may have to become a protectorate of China in order to protect the United States from the threat of nuclear annihilation, he indicated.
Contemplating the options, Graham said, "I am literally willing to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, knowing that millions and millions of people will be at risk if we don't. And that's why this whole exercise sucks so much.
"I get, like, zero joy out of having this choice for President Trump."