Washington, DC – The US capital has been under a heightened sense of urgency about the ongoing saber-rattling with North Korea. The entire US Senate of 100 members arrived in tour-type buses and SUVs for a short trip to the White House grounds, where the lawmakers were accommodated in an auditorium of the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an hour-long classified briefing from top national security officials on the North Korean threat. President Donald Trump attended, staying for “just a few minutes” at the top of the gathering.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed lawmakers at the White House on the review President Donald J. Trump ordered of US policy toward North Korea.
Coming out of the briefing, Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, called the session, “sobering.” Asked about why senators converged at the White House for the briefing, Coons said the seriousness of the threat “requires us to act in a non-partisan way.”
After the briefing, Tillerson, Mattis and Coats released a joint statement.
“Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the statement said. “With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the US homeland.”
Urgent Threat, Top Priority
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and a top foreign policy priority, the statement said.
The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with allies and regional partners, the government leaders said.
“We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on [North Korea] in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue,” the statement said. “We will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with our allies, especially [South Korea] and Japan, as we work together to preserve stability and prosperity in the region.”
The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the leaders said. “We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies,” they added.
Earlier, on the ongoing diplomatic efforts to defuse the situation with North Korea, the US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We’ve been having serious engagement, serious discussions with China about the fact that we’d like to see them do more, and that certainly includes on the economic front and trade.”
Addressing journalists at the daily briefing, Toner said, “I don’t have a laundry list in front of me that details the steps they’ve taken. I think suffice it to say that we’ve been encouraged at least by what we’ve been hearing from Chinese officials.”
Stressing that the US made its situation clear on the subject, Toner concluded, “They understand our point of view. They also understand our sense of urgency here and the fact that we’re looking to them to take action. I’ll leave it there.”