Foreign Policy

Congress Must Keep Diplomacy With North Korea On Track


It’s hard to believe it, but the North Korea summit actually happened. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un just met in person for the first time. This is an opportunity for greater peace and security, but it’s happening in spite of Trump, not because of him.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In has worked hard to de-escalate tensions and facilitate dialogue, while  Trump and his war cabinet have been sabotaging chances of successful peace talks all along the way.

The work of peace and de-nuclearization requires long-term, sustained political will, and patience in the face of inevitable setbacks. Congress has a role to play in ensuring that diplomacy stays on track, and that Trump’s war cabinet doesn’t put us back on the path of “fire and fury.”

Consider the Trump administration’s blunders already:

John Bolton, war enthusiast and National Security Advisor, implied that the U.S. might invade North Korea like it invaded Libya. Mike Pence echoed these comments and North Korea reacted strongly. Trump then abruptly canceled the summit altogether, in a letter that included a thinly-veiled threat of nuclear war. Trump threatened to “destroy” the rogue nation, and tweeted that they “won’t be around much longer.”

Building upon the President’s dangerous tweets and promises of “fire and fury,” Defense Secretary Mattis warned of a “massive military response,” and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley declared that North Korea is “begging for war.” Trump has tweeted increasingly absurd threats, including bragging about his “nuclear button” and implicitly threatening nuclear war.

For now, it is a good thing that talks are happening and that the #TrumpThreatLevel has temporarily stopped rising. But, when the continued negotiations face setbacks and obstacles - as they inevitably will - it is absolutely crucial that the administration does not turn back to its dangerous warmongering. Congress must keep pressuring the administration to make these talks successful, and to avoid military conflict that would place us all at risk.

Your Members of Congress have a crucial role to play in ensuring that diplomacy stays on track, and that Trump’s war cabinet doesn’t botch our chances for peace. Have they spoken out?

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. The Constitution is clear that only Congress can authorize war—not the President. Absent an immediate, imminent threat of attack, Trump has to come to Congress if he wants to use military force in North Korea. Period.
  2. While North Korean weapons tests are highly concerning, this does not have to become a crisis. The Kim regime values self-preservation above all else, and the United States dwarfs North Korea in size, resources, and power. It would not serve North Korea’s interests to provoke war with the United States. If talks fall apart, we must avoid military conflict by not buying into North Korea’s bluster.
  3. If there were indeed a war with North Korea, it would be catastrophic. The lives of Americans serving or living in the region would be in danger, in addition to the densely-packed local civilian populations in both North and South Korea. A new war would threaten key international relationships, cost a lot of money, and would almost certainly fail to solve the problem. North Korea’s dangerous weapons could fall into other hands, and the war could escalate toward unthinkable destruction. This is simply not an option.
  4. Only smart, genuine, and measured diplomacy can resolve these tensions and allow us to avoid a reckless war that could escalate to a nuclear showdown. Even Defense Secretary Mattis said, “we’re never out of diplomatic solutions.” The summit should be the beginning, not the end, of talks with North Korea. Only committed, long-term diplomacy can address the big questions that confront the Korean Peninsula.
  5. Polling show that Americans want to see a diplomatic resolution to the situation with North Korea, and do not want a new war. Congress has a major platform from which to make clear that the Trump administration does not have authority to engage in military action with North Korea, and to ensure that diplomacy stays on track.

TELL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: SPEAK OUT NOW

Your Members of Congress must immediately make a public statement stating that only continued diplomacy led by fully-resourced experts can achieve our goals with North Korea, and that they will not support any congressional authority for Trump to use military force if the talks hit obstacles.

Find out if your elected officials have already spoken out, and if not, urgently insist that they do so as soon as possible. It is crucial at this moment for both Republicans and Democrats to boldly assert their constitutional responsibility to manage war—and to unequivocally deny this commander-in-chief any authority to take us into a new war with North Korea. Additionally, they must urge adequate support for our diplomats to successfully navigate continued talks with North Korea.

If your MoCs have already spoken out, urge them to take another crucial step by co-sponsoring legislation that would block Trump from launching an unauthorized war with North Korea.

  • The No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act of 2017. This legislation is led by Representative Khanna in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4837) and Senator Markey in the Senate (S. 2016). This bill seeks to prevent Trump from launching any sort of strike at North Korea without congressional authorization.
  • Additionally, senators can co-sponsor the Preventing Preemptive War with North Korea Act of 2017. This legislation, (S. 2047), is led by Sen. Chris Murphy and de-funds military action in North Korea absent an imminent threat or congressional authorization.
  • Lastly, MoCs can co-sponsor the Restricting First Use Act of 2017. This bill prevents a first-use nuclear strike without an explicit declaration of war by Congress. This is led by Senator Markey (S. 200) and Representative Lieu (H.R. 669).

Call Your Members of Congress Now!

Sample Call Dialogue

Caller: Hi, my name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [part of state]. I’m calling because I’m concerned that Congress is not playing an adequate role in ensuring that peace talks with North Korea are successful. I want to know how Representative/Senator [name] is urging sustained diplomacy and preventing a new war.

Staffer: Thank you for raising your concerns, [MoC] is monitoring this situation closely.

Caller: Will [he/she] be making a strong public statement committing not to authorize force against North Korea if talks hit obstacles, and instead urging resources and support for sustained diplomacy?

Staffer: [MoC] is currently watching the situation and determining the best way to weigh in. I can certainly convey your concerns.

Caller: Yes, please do, I strongly urge [him/her] to clearly state on the record that Trump’s war cabinet must not return to “fire and fury” threats, and instead must commit to sustained diplomatic solutions.

Staffer: I’ll convey that to the [MoC].

Caller: Great, I’ll be watching for that statement. It’s very important for Congress to weigh in here as the body that is supposed to be determining when and where we go to war. I’d also like [MoC] to co-sponsor [legislation]. This legislation would restrict Trump’s ability to lead us into an unauthorized and devastating war with North Korea. I’ll be checking the co-sponsor list to make sure [MoC] is supporting.

Staffer: We’ll certainly take a look at that. Thanks for sharing your concerns.

Caller: You’re welcome, I’ll be checking back soon on the statement and on the legislation. We are relying on continued diplomacy so Trump doesn’t tweet us into nuclear war.