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Former Officials, Experts Urge Congress to Support More Robust and Effective U.S. Diplomatic Engagement with North Korea to Head Off Crisis
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For Immediate Release: March 6, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102

(Washington, D.C.)—In a letter sent to all House and Senate offices Monday, a group of former government officials, former members of Congress, nongovernmental organization leaders, and nonproliferation experts called on members of Congress to publicly express their support for a more effective U.S. diplomatic strategy with North Korea in a March 5 letter.

“Missing, so far, from the U.S. strategy has been an effective and consistent strategy for diplomatic engagement with North Korea to halt and reverse its dangerous nuclear and missile pursuits,” the letter states. “Unless there is a breakthrough in the coming weeks, the action-reaction cycle between President Trump and Kim Jong Un will likely resume soon after the conclusion of the PyeongChang Olympic Games.”

The letter calls on members of Congress to publicly support more robust efforts by President Trump to engage in negotiations with North Korea in order to reduce tensions and achieve a diplomatic agreement to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

The letter is endorsed by several former ambassadors, former members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), leading nonproliferation and security experts, and civil society leaders.

The letter highlights two bills, H.R. 4837/S. 2016, which clarify that only Congress can authorize U.S. military action in North Korea and calls for the administration to “avoid actions that could contribute to a breakdown in talks, and continue to search for confidence-building measures that are conducive to dialogue” and S.2047, which would withhold funding from military action in North Korea “absent an imminent threat to the United States without express congressional authorization.”

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories are below.

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Support Effective U.S. Diplomatic Engagement with North Korea

March 5, 2018

Dear Member of Congress / Senator:

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, its gross violations of human rights, and the risk of miscalculation that could lead to a catastrophic war pose serious, difficult, and urgent international security challenges.

We are writing to urge you, as a member of Congress, to express your support for a more effective U.S. diplomatic approach that improves the chances for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and that reduces the risks of a conflict with North Korea.

To date, the Trump administration’s policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” presidential threats of “fire and fury,” and demonstrations of U.S. military capabilities, have failed to bring North Korea’s leaders to the negotiating table, let alone convince them to trade away any aspect of their nuclear weapons program. With additional missile tests, Kim Jong-un could soon have a reliable nuclear retaliatory capability, not just against our South Korean and Japanese allies, but against the continental United States.

International support for the more effective implementation of sanctions on North Korea is an important tool, but this is a means, not an end. The so-called “preventive” military strike option, which has been actively considered inside the Trump administration, is not a viable solution as it could trigger a catastrophic conflict with millions of casualties.

Missing, so far, from the U.S. strategy has been an effective and consistent strategy for diplomatic engagement with North Korea to halt and reverse its dangerous nuclear and missile pursuits.

The dialogue between senior leaders from North and South Korea that began early this year creates an important opportunity and may have helped dissuade North Korea from conducting ballistic missile flight tests since its Nov. 29, 2017, Hwasong-15 test. During a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on Feb. 8, the Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said he would “work hard to use the opportunity of North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to bring North Korea to the table for talks for denuclearization and peace.”

The current U.S. position, as expressed in recent comments by Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson, is that the United States is open to “talks” with North Korea but sustained negotiations will require that North Korea commit to denuclearization steps, including a missile and testing freeze. For their part, North Korean leaders insist that the United States should postpone major U.S.-RoK military exercises and end what it calls the United States’ “hostile policy” toward their regime.

Since this position was first communicated to the North Koreans late last fall, North Korea had not responded positively. But on Feb. 25 South Korea’s presidential Blue House reported that: “The North Korean delegation said that North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S. and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together.”

Clearly, more will need to be done to create the conditions for a productive, sustained dialogue that defuses the North Korean nuclear crisis. Ideally, North Korea should agree—through private assurances or a public announcement—that it will refrain from nuclear and ballistic missile testing and the Republic of Korea and the United States should agree to modify their planned military exercises in such a way as not to engage in actions that might be interpreted by Pyongyang as a preparation for a preventive military strike on North Korea.

Unless there is a breakthrough in the coming weeks, the action-reaction cycle between President Trump and Kim Jong Un will likely resume soon after the conclusion of the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

To improve the prospects for a diplomatic solution and to avert a conflict, we urge you to publicly express your support for more robust and realistic efforts by the President, in coordination with U.S. allies and partners, to engage in negotiations with North Korea designed to:

  • reduce tensions and improve communication in ways that reduce the chance of miscalculation; and
  • achieve a diplomatic agreement designed to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits, toward a denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

One way to do so is to cosponsor H.R. 4837/S. 2016, which clarifies that only Congress can authorize U.S.-initiated military action against North Korea and urges the Trump Administration to “avoid actions that could contribute to a breakdown in talks, and continue to search for confidence-building measures that are conducive to dialogue.” Another way to do so is to support S. 2047, which would prohibit funds from “being used for kinetic military operations in North Korea absent an imminent threat to the United States without express congressional authorization.”

We urge you to voice your support for a more robust and realistic diplomatic strategy that improves U.S. efforts to defend allies in the region, prevents proliferation, and halts and eventually reverses Pyongyang’s dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Dr. Rachel Bronson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists*

Thomas Countryman, Former Acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State and Chair of the Board of Directors, Arms Control Association

Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association

Michael Fuchs, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, Senior Advisor, Open Society Foundations

Frank Jannuzi, Former East Asia Policy Director, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution* and Chair and Founder, Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation*

Amb. Laura E. Kennedy (Ret.), Former U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, U.S. Department of State

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Jessica Lee, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Council of Korean Americans

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Adjunct Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ret.), Former Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director, Policy and Political Affairs, Peace Action

Stephen Miles, Director, Win Without War

Amb. Thomas R. Pickering (Ret.), Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, Senior Research Scholar, Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School

Joel Rubin, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of State

David Santoro, Director and Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy, Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

John F. Tierney, Former U.S. Representative, 6th District MA and Executive Director, Council for a Livable World

Cassandra Varanka, Nuclear Weapons Policy Coordinator, Women’s Action for New Directions

Dr. Paul F. Walker, International Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. David Wright, Co-Director, Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Sam Yoon, Executive Director, Council of Korean Americans

Philip W. Yun, Former Senior Advisor for East Asia, U.S. Department of State and Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer, Ploughshares Fund

*Institution listed for identification purposes only

 

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Posted: March 5, 2018