But first …
editor’s note: I’ve made some sentences bold. – R.T.
U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), led a letter signed by 64 House Democrats to rebuke President Trump’s inconsistent and dangerous statements regarding U.S. policy towards North Korea, notify him that military strikes without Congressional approval would violate the Constitution, and urge him to instead adhere to the diplomatic approach recently articulated by his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The 64 signers represent the 64 years since the Armistice Agreement was signed to end hostilities in the Korean War.
“The U.S. and the international community must deal with North Korea and negotiate a tough agreement that freezes further nuclear development and tests and, ultimately, takes their nukes off the table,” Congressman McGovern said. “That requires cool heads and hard-nosed diplomacy. Erratic tweets and saber-rattling with nuclear weapons are not solutions, they’re a fast-track to catastrophe.”
Congressman John Conyers, Dean of the House of Representatives and one of two remaining Korean War Veterans serving in Congress, said “President Trump’s irresponsible statements on North Korea endanger our troops, our regional allies such as South Korea and Japan, and global security more broadly. As someone who has watched this conflict evolve since I was sent to Korea as a young Army Lieutenant, it is a reckless, inexperienced move to threaten military action that could end in devastation instead of pursuing vigorous diplomacy.”
“As a daughter of a veteran of the Korean War and a member of the Military and Veterans Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to demand that President Trump provide Congress with a comprehensive strategy for deterring North Korea that puts diplomacy and non-military strategies first,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “This letter reinforces the constitutional responsibility of the President to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering any use of U.S. military force.”
Responding to Trump’s recent comments that appeared to threaten military action against North Korea, the letter states that “While both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 provide the Office of the President with the authority to act in cases of emergencies, both require an affirmative authorization from Congress before our nation engages in military action abroad against a state that has not attacked the U.S. or our assets abroad.”
The letter notes that “Military action against North Korea was considered by the Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, but all ultimately determined there was no military option that would not run the unacceptable risk of a counter-reaction from Pyongyang.” The letter says that debate over any potential military action against North Korea is crucial, as the North Korean reaction to such a strike “could immediately threaten the lives of as many as a third of the South Korean population, put nearly 30,000 U.S. service members and over 100,000 other U.S. citizens residing in South Korea in grave danger, and also threaten other regional allies such as Japan.”
The letter urges Trump to “adhere to the diplomatic approach recently articulated by Secretary Tillerson,” who recently stated that the Trump Administration’s sole goal is to “seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula” without pursuing a regime change that could potentially risk a devastating conflict. The letter instead calls on the Administration to engage directly with North Korea and explore the possibility of a negotiated resolution to the nuclear issue.
An Economist/YouGov poll conducted from April 29 to May 2, 2017 found that 60 percent of Americans support “direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea” to end North Korea’s nuclear program, while 10 percent were somewhat opposed and 8 percent strongly opposed. 63 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans support direct negotiations with North Korea, while 70 percent of Hillary Clinton voters and 68 percent of Trump backers were supportive.
The letter also urges the Administration to “address humanitarian issues of mutual concern such as the reunification of Korean and Korean American families as well as the repatriation of the remains of US servicemen left in North Korea following the War.”
“Last fall, traveling to Pyongyang to discuss the return of US Korean War servicemen’s remains collected over the years by the North Koreans, I flew over where my father’s plane went down. It was the closest I’ve been to him since I was three years old,” said Rick Downes, Executive Director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs. “Like thousands of other American families who pray to bring their loved ones home, I hope to go back and bring my father home. Calls for diplomacy like this make that opportunity much more real.”
As of late March 2017, there were 61,322 surviving family members among the list of those waiting to reunite with relatives in North Korea, and more than 62 percent of them are over the age of 80, according to Nan Kim, an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and author of Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide.
Signers of the letter included 5 Democratic Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The 64 letter signers included: Alma S. Adams (NC-12), Karen Bass (CA-37), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Don Beyer (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Michael E. Capuano (MA-07), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), Judy Chu (CA-27), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Katherine M. Clark (MA-05), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01), Emanuel L. Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04), Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-03), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Bill Foster (IL-11),Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Richard E. Neal (MA-01), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-09), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), José E. Serrano (NY-15), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Darren Soto (FL-09), Mark Takano (CA-41), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07),Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24)
Full Text of Letter:
May 23, 2017
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump:
We write to once again draw your attention to your constitutional responsibility to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering use of U.S. military force, which would include any military action against North Korea that is not in response to an attack by that country. The mandate requiring Congressional consultation and authorization is prescribed in both the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
While both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 provide the Office of the President with the authority to act in cases of emergencies, both require an affirmative authorization from Congress before our nation engages in military action abroad against a state that has not attacked the U.S. or our assets abroad. As Section 2 of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 makes clear, absent a declaration of war or a specific statutory authorization approved by Congress, only a “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” can justify military action undertaken without Congressional authorization.
Few decisions are more needing of debate than a move to launch attacks, or declare war, on a nuclear-armed state such as North Korea. Military action against North Korea was considered by the Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, but all ultimately determined there was no military option that would not run the unacceptable risk of a counter-reaction from Pyongyang. This reaction could immediately threaten the lives of as many as a third of the South Korean population, put nearly 30,000 U.S. service members and over 100,000 other U.S. citizens residing in South Korea in grave danger, and also threaten other regional allies such as Japan.
In such a volatile region, an inconsistent or unpredictable policy runs the risk of unimaginable conflict. That is why we strongly urge you to adhere to the diplomatic approach recently articulated by Secretary Tillerson, who stated that your Administration’s sole goal is to “seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” and that you “do not seek regime change” and “do not seek a collapse of the regime,” both of which could lead down a path that could risk nuclear war. We support Secretary Tillerson’s statement that the preferred method for resolution is “direct talks with North Korea,” including persuading them to relinquish their nuclear weapons by assuring them that they “do not need these weapons to secure the existence of [their] regime.”
We respectfully request more information about the steps your Administration is taking to advance the prospects for direct negotiations that could lower the potential for catastrophic war and ultimately lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula. We would also urge the Administration to outline steps to address humanitarian issues of mutual concern such as the reunification of Korean and Korean American families as well as the repatriation of the remains of US servicemen left in North Korea following the War.
We look forward to receiving details about your plans for a negotiated resolution of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and, in the event that your plans do include an ill-advised military component, we stand ready to exercise our constitutional duty to approve, or reject, any such military action.