WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after North Korea’s foreign minister said Monday that President Donald Trump has “declared war” on North Korea, citing Trump’s tweets from last weekend:
“As we know, North Korea is a malignant and destabilizing force within the region. These remarks from the North Korean foreign minister reinforce how critical it is that the U.S. be strategic and thoughtful in its approach. Unfortunately, they also remind us that when President Trump instead makes belligerent, shoot-from-the-hip comments like ‘Little Rocket Man’ and ‘they won’t be around much longer,’ it only plays into Kim Jong-Un’s hand and further endangers Americans and our allies.
“North Korea has nuclear weapons and a sizable artillery aimed at Seoul, with a metropolitan area population of 25 million, just 35 miles away. There is no military option that does not immediately endanger the lives of thousands of those living in Seoul, including tens of thousands of Americans. History is littered with millions of lives lost in wars that were blundered into by mistake. The President’s reckless comments not only substantially raise the risk of an armed conflict; they also put a diplomatic solution further from reach by reinforcing Kim’s belief and propaganda that his arsenal is the only defense from an existential threat.
“Our long-term goal must be to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula, but our short-term goal should be for North Korea to cease its testing of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles, along with the initiation of negotiations.
“To accomplish this, we need international partnership in economic sanctions that persuade Kim Jong-un that the survival of his regime is at stake. Those additional sanctions must include the shut-down of oil imports to North Korea. They should also include the termination of employment contracts for overseas North Korean workers, which North Korea uses to generate large amounts of hard currency; the end of student visas for elite North Korean families, a highly valued privilege; a crackdown on cross-border smuggling of goods; and full support for protecting North Korean defectors, who China now returns to North Korea where they face certain punishment.
“For this strategy to be effective, North Korea must believe that the U.S. will keep its word if we reach an agreement. I am extremely troubled, therefore, that the Trump Administration is signaling it may pull out of the Iran agreement next month, at a critical point in our navigation of this escalating North Korean crisis. Pulling out of the Iran agreement would send exactly the wrong signal at the wrong time, and I am concerned that it will only inspire the North Korean regime to accelerate their race to a long-range nuclear missile.
“The U.S. must immediately reset its approach to the North Korean situation and commit to the global community that we will uphold our international commitments by honoring the Iran deal. President Trump must realize that the crisis with North Korea is not a reality show, and that any approach other than treating it with the seriousness it deserves puts American lives in danger.”