Dems urge Tillerson to rein in Trump on North Korea

Dems urge Tillerson to rein in Trump on North Korea
© Getty

More than 60 House Democrats are urging Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE to rein in President Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea.

“We write to express our profound concern over the statements made by President Trump that dramatically increased tensions with North Korea and raised the specter of nuclear war,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Tillerson on Thursday. “These statements are irresponsible and dangerous, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people.

“Accordingly, we respectfully but firmly urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that President Trump and other Administration officials understand the importance of speaking and acting with the utmost caution and restraint on this delicate issue.”

ADVERTISEMENT
The letter was organized by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and co-signed by 61 of his House Democratic colleagues.

On Tuesday, Trump promised to unleash “fire and fury” upon North Korea if Kim Jong Un continues threatening the United States.

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state,” Trump said. “And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

The statement raised eyebrows as it appeared to draw a red line at threats alone. Some also interpreted “fire and fury” as insinuating a nuclear strike.

Tillerson on Wednesday explained the rhetoric as a way to speak to Kim in words he understands.

“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un can understand because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said.

On Thursday, Trump mused that perhaps the “fire and fury” statement wasn’t “tough enough.”

In their letter, the lawmakers said Congress and the American people will hold Trump responsible if a miscalculation endangers U.S. troops or allies. They highlighted that a third of South Koreans, about 30,000 U.S. troops and more than 100,000 other Americans living in South Korea would be in immediate danger if North Korea counterattacks after a U.S. strike.

“To allay these concerns, the Trump administration should publicly declare its agreement with the constitutional requirement that any preemptive attack on North Korea must be debated and authorized by Congress,” they wrote.

They also said they support talks with North Korea, which Tillerson has said the United States is open to if Pyongyang halts its missile tests.

In a statement accompanying the release of the letter, Conyers said that as a Korean War veteran, he was “ashamed” of Trump. 

“As a veteran of the Korean War, I am ashamed that our commander-in-chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in Korea and our regional allies,” Conyers said. “Trump must immediately cease talk of pre-emptive war—which must be authorized by Congress—and commit to the diplomatic path advocated by both American experts and the South Korean government.”