Senator John McCain looks on during a press conference in July. Photo: Reuters / Aaron P Bernstein

Convincing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear ambitions would require the US to guarantee in some way that nation’s survival, Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) said in an interview on Thursday.

“That is an odious option,” McCain said, in a video interview by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward for a US Naval Institute conference in Maryland.

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman reportedly said it’s not easy weighing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula against ensuring Kim Jong-un’s continuing future as leader of North Korea.

“Who wants to see a guy who blows up his uncle with an anti-aircraft gun remain in power? […] This may be one of the greatest challenges that the United States of America and the world has faced since the Cuban Missile Crisis,” McCain said.

USNI says Woodward asked McCain if there is a war camp in Washington, building what he described as an “aura of we need action, we can’t be pushed around?”

“There is legitimacy to that view, because three administrations in a row have negotiated with the North Koreans and gotten nothing to show for it,” McCain said.

Is the key to negotiating North Korea understanding what the nation wants to achieve, Woodward reportedly asked, citing what many experts consider Kim Jong-un’s ultimate goal of achieving respect, engagement, normalization, but not war with US.

McCain agreed, saying he thinks North Korea wants respect, but any negotiations also must consider the reality of how much Kim Jong-un is likely relying on possessing nuclear weapons as a way to protect his regime.