Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday that time has come to start moving dependents of U.S. military personnel out of South Korea.
"It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea," Graham said on CBS News's Face the Nation. "And I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea."
Last week, North Korea shattered months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country's ability to strike the U.S. It was North Korea's most powerful weapons test yet.
Graham's comments followed those by national security adviser H.R. McMaster who said Saturday that the chances of war with North Korea are "increasing every day."
"There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict," McMaster said, "but it is a race because he's getting closer and closer and there's not much time left," in a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Media reports say the Pentagon is looking at U.S. west coast sites where additional defense systems can be installed, following the North Korean threat of a strike on the U.S. The Reuters news agency says the defenses would likely include Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missiles, similar to those deployed in South Korea.
"The newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-15 has been successfully test-launched according to the political decision and strategic judgement of the Workers' Party of Korea,” read an announcer Wednesday on North Korea’s state-run KRT television.
Pyongyang claims can hit any part of US
Following previous launches, the North has claimed its projectiles can hit any part of the continental United States, but this would be the first time it would be able to do so with this new type of upgraded missile, which both North Korean and U.S. officials said could fly higher than the ones the country has tested earlier.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
"Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,'' Graham told CBS. “I think we're really running out of time.”
North Korea, meanwhile, characterized the U.S. and South Korea as "warmongers" Sunday, a day ahead of the U.S. and South Korea's largest-ever joint air exercises.
The North's ruling party Rodong newspaper said Sunday the joint exercises are "an open, all-out provocation against" North Korea that could "lead to a nuclear war any moment."
It is not clear if Pyongyang has mastered the capability of miniaturizing and mounting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM, which South Korean officials have said could happen within a matter of months.
Analysts also question North Korea’s technical mastery of ICBM re-entry, which plays a key role in targeting. In the event of a launch at the U.S. mainland, U.S. missile defense systems would be employed.