In his new book Fear, Bob Woodward reports that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tried to solve the Trump administration’s biggest foreign policy dilemma by advocating a plan to murder of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and turn North Korea into a Chinese colony.
Graham’s intervention took place in September 2017, when the administration was deeply divided on how to handle North Korea. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was pursuing a diplomatic solution and emphasized that the United States wasn’t pursuing regime change. Others in the administration, including Trump, were toying with the interventionist option that Tillerson eschewed.
Graham, a onetime Trump critic who has sidled up the president in order to influence foreign policy, made a bold assassination pitch to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and then National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, according to Woodward.
“China needs to kill him and replace him with a North Korean general they control,” Graham argued. “I think the Chinese are clearly the key here and they need to take him out. Not us, them. And control the nuclear inventory there. And wind this thing down. Or control him. To stop the march to a big nuclear arsenal. My fear is that he will sell it.”
Among other problems with Graham’s scheme is the fact that it ignores the fierce nationalism of North Korea. It is by no means clear that North Koreans would want to become a satrapy of China.
As The Daily Beast notes, the policy option of assassination is one that President Donald Trump is amenable to. “Let’s fucking kill him!” the president said of Syrian dictator Bashar as-Assad in a phone conversation in April 2017 with Defense Secretary James Mattis. “Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them.” Mattis ignored Trump’s command.