In response to a letter
sent him by two Congressional Democrats, Representatives Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona – a top Pentagon official stated that nothing short of an actual ground invasion of North Korea, would put a complete halt to the nuclear weapons program of dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Rear Admiral Michael J Dumont, in his answer to the legislators, told them that:
“A classified briefing would be the best place to discuss in detail the capability of the US and its allies to … counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities.”
But what he did disclose in his response to them was that, “The only way to ‘locate and destroy – with complete certainty – all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion.”
Donald Trump is currently on a tour of Asia that includes meetings with newly re-elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as other government leaders in South Korea and China, who is urging Trump to support further diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang.
North Korean missile program and Trump’s chaotic public statements
Elected officials from both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C. are deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s lack of discipline with regards to messaging on the North Korea situation. Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, who for months now has been involved in a war of words with Trump, intimates that there are many more members of his own party that find Trump’s behavior constituting a serious risk to national security:
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. Of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
Congressional Democrats on Saturday, openly spoke of the threat constituted by Trump’s actions in undermining the State Department’s and Secretary Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives.
In a joint statement that included a GOP colleague, 16 lawmakers expressed their apprehensions about the risks of an invasion of North Korea, including their view that such a course of action “could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting”. They also said that, “The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.”
Former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia, Abraham Denmark, underlines the concerns of the House members that issued the statement, saying that the confused and inconsistent messaging emanating from the Trump administration and the Oval Office, create confusion for both allies and adversaries.
“Our adversaries and our allies are getting very mixed messages from the Trump administration, and this is why you need to have experienced people in government. This is why diplomacy requires more than a Twitter account and some bravado — you need to have real experienced diplomats coordinating all these messages.”
Seoul, South Korea and the risk of massive casualties
Admiral Dumont also, in broad outline, told the lawmakers that because Seoul, the South Korean capital with a population of 25 million, is just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the DOD is evaluating the potential for death and destruction should North Korea unleash an attack with rockets and artillery. Included in his response as well as that from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the possibility that the DPRK might employ chemical and biological weapons.
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein echoed the assessments of many defense experts including the Congressional Research Service, in saying that war would bring with it massive casualties:
“I’ve spent a lot of time reading the intelligence. I’ve had an opportunity to discuss the situation with [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis. I believe that an outbreak of war would kill hundreds of thousands of people.”
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) November 5, 2017
Most estimates place the number of American citizens in South Korea (mostly in Seoul) at 140,000 (not including military personnel), adding to the risk factor to any outbreak of hostilities.
Included in the letter to the Trump administration from Congressman Lieu – an Air Force veteran and his colleagues, all of whom have served in the armed forces, was their declaration that, “It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action.”
The American people are themselves increasingly concerned with Trump’s erratic and reckless communications on the Korea situation. A new poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that two thirds of Americans believe Trump’s public statements are making the North Korean situation, worse – not better.
Hawaiian Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard (D), a major in the Army National Guard who served two tours of duty in Iraq, while earning a Combat Medical Badge, an Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and a Meritorious Service Medal, believes that part of the answer to the North Korean crisis, is a shift in American foreign policy:
“As long as the U.S. is waging regime change wars, we are far less likely to reach a diplomatic solution in North Korea because they have no reason to believe our promises. In fact, we are far more likely to see nuclear proliferation by countries like North Korea who see nuclear weapons as their only deterrent against regime change.”