North Korea could mark the first real presidential test for President Donald Trump, while China will prove vital to shutting down North Korea's progressively aggressive behavior, Sen. John McCain said Sunday.
"China is the key," the Arizona Republican, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC "Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd. "They can stop this if they want to, because of their control over the North Korean economy."
There is artillery on the border of North and South Korea that can reach Seoul, and the United States can't take that out, but "China can shut them down," said McCain.
"We should expect them to act to prevent what could be a cataclysmic event," the senator said of China. "The North Koreans keep making progress. They had a failure yesterday."
The New York Times reported that under President Barack Obama, the U.S. worked to stop missile launches, including through electronic warfare sabotage. McCain said Sunday he didn't think that was the case in Saturday's failed launch, but he "wouldn't rule it out."
"At the same time, they have made steady progress," said McCain. "How many times on this show have we said, we have now a comprehensive agreement with North Korea? I'm not blaming Trump for this. I'm blaming Republican and Democrat presidents over the last 20 years."
Even with the failed launch, McCain said the North Korean situation is "really very serious," as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is "not rational."
"His father and grandfather were much more rational than he is," McCain said.
The senator does believe Trump will get good advice from his advisers, singling out Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
"I think he's growing," McCain said of Trump. "He is listening to some very wise and intelligent people."
When it comes to Trump's reaction to a Syrian chemical weapons attack and his decision to launch strikes on a Syrian airfield in response, the senator said he believes the president was "deeply moved" when he saw the pictures of children who were killed.
McCain said he supports the Syrian attack and the decision to launch a MOAB strike in Afghanistan on ISIS-held caves. However, Trump has stopped short of favoring regime change to take Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of office and McCain said that's because the president is not sure what to do next.
"I would point out of the 400,000 men, women and children who were slaughtered, they weren't slaughtered by ISIS, they were slaughtered by Bashar Al Assad," said McCain. "Syria will continue to have the spread of al Qaida if we don't get, take care of Bashar al-Assad."
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