House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said he’s concerned the current state of foreign affairs could lead to war with North Korea following a briefing with top administration officials Wednesday.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came to Capitol Hill to discuss their strategy for North Korea with both chambers just days after the country conducted its sixth nuclear test.
“I’m concerned Kim Jong un wants to finish what his grandfather started,” Thornberry told reporters. “And if he’s determined to do that, it is going to be dangerous.”
According to Thornberry, it’s critical for the country be strong militarily, arguing it strengthens Tillerson’s hands in diplomacy and incentivizes China to work with the U.S. on defending against North Korean aggressions.
“If he (Kim Jong un) can sideline the U.S. military by holding our cities hostage with missiles, nuclear weapons and potentially even hydrogen bombs, then he may be able to complete what grandfather started,” he said, adding he’s concerned the country hasn’t built enough interceptors. “We do not have enough missile defense, and we have neglected research into new and potentially more effective ways to conduct missile defense.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they are supportive of the administration’s diplomacy first strategy to stop North Korea’s threat.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel called on the president to tone down his fiery rhetoric on China, adding he thinks it’s poor timing for the administration to pull out of the U.S.’s trade agreement with South Korea — noting they will need their support if they want to stop North Korea from growing its nuclear program.
“There could be thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of casualties if, God forbid, a war or nuclear war would break out,” he said. “So I think we have to be very, very careful in what we say.”
“The question is can you get North Korea to the negotiating table without severe penalties,” Engel continued. “This is why I said we need China because the country closest to North Korea keeping them going is China, and of course there will be a lot of discussions down the road to China.”
GOP Rep. Doug LaMalfa told The Daily Caller News Foundation he believes placing sanctions on the country is a good place to start.
“It allows others to line up with this more instead of us being alone with it — you know it allows China to be more of a helpful partner on that instead of something more harsh,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California questioned whether the U.S.’s call for a non-nuclear North Korea is achievable, adding he thinks it’s more of an aspirational goal.
“We have to get China to threaten North Korea with an end to all trade, but even with all that, that’s only enough pressure to get them to agree to a freeze verification of that freeze maybe a few other concessions that would make us more secure,” he said. “But as long as we’re saying, ‘You must shortly give up all your nuclear weapons,’ we’re basically turning to Kim Jong un and saying, ‘You must go where Saddam and [Muammar] Gadhafi are today’ — and that’s a very hot place he doesn’t want to go.”
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