WASHINGTON, D.C. — The grave threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs were at the center of a White House meeting between President Donald Trump, the majority of U.S. senators, and national security officials Wednesday.
U.S. senators had asked for a hearing on the situation with North Korea and the president responded with an offer to host every U.S. senator at the White House “to communicate the seriousness of the threat from North Korea and to allow the Senators to ask questions of the National Security team and understand better the nature of the threat,” according to a senior White House official.
The official commented that communicating the situation was not the only aim of the meeting, adding that the president and national security team wanted to convey:
…what our response to that threat has been and how we’re proceeding to protect the American people and our partners in the region from this very grave threat represented by what we know is a brutal regime, what we know is an unpredictable regime and what we know is a capable regime in terms of military capabilities and a regime that holds at risk large portions of the population of South Korea, but now really a new level of threat from North Korea associated with the unacceptable and erratic and unlawful behavior of Kim Jong-un’s regime represented by the murder of his brother using a nerve agent in a public place, in an airport. But also the increasing capability for destruction that that regime possesses in the form of the nuclear program and the ballistic missile program, so it’s about the seriousness and it’s about a discussion of strategy and approach. It has developed a broad range of options to remove this threat not only to the American people but to our allies…
“We build into the strategy, efforts to mitigate risk,” the official went on. “The team has done everything that we can to try to anticipate reactions and then mitigate and risk associated with those.”
Recent activities the administration caught through monitoring North Korea gave the indication that the nation’s government was preparing a provocative action, according to the official, who described administration attempts to track the country’s activities and prepare potential responses. “What happened was a conventional firepower demonstration on Army Day on the 25th,” the official noted. “They continued to monitor and try to identify any indicators of a nuclear test, ballistic missile test or ICBM test.”
Following the Senate meeting, reporters swarmed around Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who offered commentary on the meeting. “I frankly think it makes the American people safer if the world sees our government acting in a concerted, serious, and thoughtful manner, rather than taking partisan shots about did we meet the Senate… it was a thorough and constructive briefing and I appreciate the opportunity to participate,” he told reporters.
Sen. Coons added that there remains the important and difficult work of drafting a policy for how to be prepared militarily if the U.S. or her allies are attacked, as well as a well-thought-out diplomatic strategy.
Asked if the briefing left him feeling that the president is doing all that he can regarding North Korea for the safety of our troops, the American people, and allies, Coons said, “I’m encouraged with what I heard about steps that are being taken, both to engage our allies around the world and to make this China’s problem, because China really is the single largest supporter of the North Korean regime and without Chinese support, we’re not going to be successful in any diplomatic effort to reign it in.” He also lauded the steps being taken to avoid miscalculation.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.