Retired officers to Trump: North Korea approach 'is failing'

Retired officers to Trump: North Korea approach 'is failing'
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More than 50 retired military officers are calling on President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE to change course on his North Korea policy and focus on diplomacy.

“The current approach taken by the United States is failing to stop North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile technology,” the 58 retired officers wrote to Trump in a letter published Wednesday by The Washington Post. “The United States must initiate and lead an aggressive, urgent diplomatic effort to freeze North Korean nuclear and missile development and reduce regional tensions.”

The letter was organized by retired Navy Rear Adm. Michael E. Smith, who leads a new nonpartisan organization called the American College of National Security Leaders, according to the Post. The group is working with nonproliferation advocates the Ploughshares Fund, the Post added.

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North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have progressed apace as the United States has tried levying ever-tougher sanctions.

Pyongyang carried out its highest missile test to date last month when it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that appeared to put the entire United States in range. It’s unknown, though, whether anything was in the missile’s nosecone, which would affect the distance the missile can fly.

Trump administration officials have consistently said that they would prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but they have also made clear they are ready to use military options.

The administration’s stance on diplomacy was further muddied Tuesday when Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE said the United States was ready for talks “without preconditions.” Hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s “views on North Korea have not changed.” 

In their letter, the retired military officers highlighted the threat to Seoul that military action poses. The South Korean capital is in range of North Korea’s artillery, meaning “hundreds of thousands” of casualties from North Korea’s “immediate, retaliatory artillery barrage” in the event of U.S. military action, they wrote.

“The United States would be drawn into a preventable war,” they wrote. “Military options must not be the preferred course of action."

“The United States and its allies must maintain a robust military posture as a deterrent to North Korea,” they continued, “yet the urgent need for success demands we exhaust every possible diplomatic solution.”