Less than a day away from the DPRK-U.S. Summit in Singapore, Representative Ro Khanna of California’s 17th Congressional District sent a letter today calling on the U.S. president to understand that diplomacy is the only option in resolving the conflict with North Korea. The letter was endorsed by 14 other members of congress.
This letter comes a week after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Trump with a notably different tone and message. Schumer and the other endorsing senators urged the president to hold a hardline stance during negotiations with North Korea: “Any deal that explicitly or implicitly gives North Korea sanctions relief for anything other than the verifiable performance of its obligations to dismantle its nuclear and missile arsenal is a bad deal.”
Khanna’s letter offers a critique of the approach that demands complete denuclearization from North Korea before the U.S. gives anything in return: “We remain concerned that some, from both parties and inside and outside of your administration, seek to scuttle progress by attempting to limit the parameters of the talks, including by insisting on full and immediate denuclearization or other unrealistic commitments by North Korea at an early date.”
In the letter, the signing representatives also urge the White House to take concrete steps to help facilitate the “phased denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” as an alternative approach to unilaterally demanding complete denuclearization by North Korea as a pre-condition:
Among the positive steps that you can commit to right away are: pledges or agreements to formally end the 68-year war, ending the practice of US-ROK “decapitation” military exercises, and support for important cooperative efforts such as vital humanitarian assistance, parliamentarian dialogue and exchanges, reunions between Koreans and Korean American families, and the repatriation of US servicemember remains.
Such steps, combined with commensurate actions by North Korea, could help facilitate the phased denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. One of the world’s foremost nuclear weapons experts and one of the only Americans to visit North Korea’s nuclear facilities, Sig Hecker, notes that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization, which would manage the greatest risks early on and then address lower priority aspects of the program over the course of ten or more years.
The letter also reminds Trump that in the case of a “setback or collapse in talks,” the White House does not have the authority to take military action against North Korea — “Accordingly, we stand ready to provide support for potentially historic progress made through diplomacy, but will continue to stand with our ally South Korea in vehemently opposing any return to threats of illegal and unacceptable military action.”
Below is the full letter endorsed by 15 members of the House of Representatives.
Representative Khanna also shared his critique of Senator Schumer’s letter on twitter as well as Fox News:
It is unreasonable for @SenSchumer to demand complete denuclearization for the president’s summit with North Korea. After 68 years of hostilities, the opportunity to make peace with North Korea must take priority over partisan attacks against the president. pic.twitter.com/ItRxQjWCHo
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) June 11, 2018