On Dec. 18, eight Democratic Senate leaders, including Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to President Donald Trump about North Korean policy, writing that “a resumption of ‘fire and fury’ threats... can increase the risk of a catastrophic war.”
In light of the rising tensions brought by the approaching end-of-year deadline for negotiations set by North Korea, Senate leaders pressed for a feasible diplomatic solution while warning against the risks of hard-line policy like military action against North Korea. It is meaningful that prominent figures in the United States Senate are urging President Trump to talk during this critical time when the state of the Korean Peninsula is becoming increasingly more dangerous. North Korea, and obviously the Trump administration as well, must begin negotiations immediately with a realistic and reasonable alternative.
In the letter, Senate Democrats said that “we are disturbed that almost two years after the Singapore Summit your administration has yet to develop a workable diplomatic process,” adding that they “hope that you will execute a serious diplomatic plan before it is too late.”
They also wrote, “It would be a severe miscalculation to believe that a resumption of ‘fire and fury’ threats and other attempts at nuclear coercion against North Korea, which can increase the risk of a catastrophic war, can lead to better results than the negotiating table.”
It seems that they fear President Trump will consider a military option after recently demeaning North Korean Chairman of the National Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un by calling him a ‘rocket man’ and saying that “We have the most powerful military we’ve ever had… if we had to [use it], we’ll do it.”
Though the target of the Senate leaders’ letter was obviously President Trump, its message also applies to North Korea. Recently, North Korea raised the threat level by hinting at the possibility of a “Christmas present crucial test,” whether a nuclear test or a resumption of long-range missile tests. North Korea also reacted stubbornly in ignoring U.S. Special Representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun’s suggestion to hold public talks in Seoul.
The political situation in the Korean Peninsula can never be allowed to regress to the extremely dangerous military showdown of two years ago after the year-end deadline. To prevent this, North Korea must show a strong determination to face the United States directly and talk it out. The United States must suggest a concrete workable diplomatic solution as suggested by Senate leaders and push North Korea to the negotiating table. In this way, it must consider flexibility instead of just saying no, as it did recently when China and Russia suggested that the U.S. lift some sanctions on North Korea.