Vet lawmakers urge Trump to halt heated words with North Korea
A group of military veteran lawmakers is urging President Trump to back off from provocative statements and moves against North Korea following a Pentagon report on what a war with the isolated nation would entail.
“The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk,” 16 House and Senate lawmakers wrote in a joint statement.
The statement — led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) with backing from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) — came in response to a new Pentagon assessment released late last week. In the assessment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff found that the only way to destroy the country’s nuclear arsenal “with complete certainty” is through a ground invasion.
“That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting,” the lawmakers wrote.
“A nonpartisan report by the Congressional Research Service indicates conflict on the peninsula could impact as many as 25 million people on either side of the border, including more than 100,000 U.S. citizens. We must pursue every other option before even considering a massive ground invasion.”
Lieu and Gallego asked Defense Secretary James Mattis for the assessment in September, as past congressional briefings on North Korea have not included analysis on expected casualties in the event of war.
The statement also hit at the administration for failing to “articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.”
“With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling,” the members wrote.
North Korea has stepped up the pace of its weapons tests in recent months, including what it says was a hydrogen bomb test in September. In response, Trump has engaged in a bitter war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and has repeatedly threatened military action against the country.
Trump arrived in Japan on Saturday for the first stop on a 12-day trip across Asia. The topic of North Korea has already come up in discussions as the commander in chief on Monday encouraged Japan to purchase United States military equipment to defend itself against North Korea’s aggression.
“He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of a lot of military equipment from the United States,” Trump said, referring to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, urged that “every diplomatic and economic option must be exhausted before military options are considered. If President Trump does intend to pursue a military option against North Korea, he must come to Congress as required by our Constitution.”