US Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has warned of a possible “nuclear war” with North Korea as a standoff drags on over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Sanders made the remarks in an interview with CBS News on Friday after US President Donald Trump said a day earlier that a “major, major conflict” between Washington and Pyongyang was likely and it would be “very difficult” to pursue a diplomatic solution.
“When you’re talking about a major, major conflict, what you’re talking about is a nuclear war,” Sanders said. “This is a very complicated and difficult issue. North Korea is an isolated, dangerous country that has nuclear weapons, working on a missile system.”
The Vermont senator also pointed to further cooperation with Beijing and the use of Chinese leverage on North Korea to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
“I think the goal now is to work as strongly as we can with China,” Sanders noted. “China receives I think about 80 percent of the exports from North Korea, they are in a position to tighten the screws on North Korea and tell them they cannot continue their weapons or their missile program.”
At a Security Council meeting on the same day, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, however, made clear that it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean issue and warned Washington against using military force against Pyongyang.
“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang said. “The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters.”
During the meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for new sanctions on North Korea, noting that Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development could lead to “catastrophic consequences.”
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have significantly spiked in recent weeks. The United States, concerned by North Korea’s rapidly-developing missile and nuclear programs, has sent a strike force and submarine to the peninsula. Pyongyang has said it is ready for war and the two sides have been increasingly trading threats of military action against one another.
The US military has also begun transporting parts of the controversial THAAD anti-missile system to a planned deployment site in South Korea.
Pyongyang has expressed its strong opposition to the installment of the missile system and has threatened to take strong military action in case it is invaded.
North Korea, already under a raft of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, also says it is maintaining the nuclear program as deterrence against the US. It has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches, and it is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear weapons test.