The Obama administration says it is up to North Korea to de-escalate the latest flare-up of tensions on the Korean peninsula. U.S. lawmakers are speaking of actual armed conflict with North Korea as something other than a remote hypothetical possibility.
White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer says North Korea engineered the current crisis, and it is up to North Korea to change its posture and tactics.
“North Korea is engaging in a pattern of behavior we have seen for many, many years: provocative actions, bellicose rhetoric. And the key here, and the onus is on North Korea to take a step back, meet their international obligations - so they can undertake what they say is their number-one goal, which is economic development," he said.
Pfeiffer spoke on the Fox News Sunday television program.
South Korean officials say Pyongyang may be preparing a new missile test in a bid to force diplomatic concessions from the international community.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press program, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said South Korea’s patience with its northern neighbor is wearing thin.
“They (South Korea) are not going to put up with this anymore. I could see a major war happening if the North Koreans overplay their hand this time, because the public in South Korea, the United States, and the whole region is fed up with this guy," he said.
And if armed conflict did occur? “The North loses and the South wins, with our help," he said.
Fellow-Republican Senator John McCain agrees, but says the consequences would be severe.
“South Korea would win. We would win if there was an all-out conflict. But the fact is that North Korea could set Seoul on fire. And that, obviously, would be a catastrophe of enormous proportions," he said.
Speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation program, McCain urged greater Chinese pressure on North Korea.
“China does hold the key to this problem. China could cut off their [North Korea’s] economy if they want to," he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently said that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain.” Beijing is North Korea's sole financial and diplomatic backer.