A New, Bipartisan Bill Would Prevent Trump from Attacking North Korean

April 29th, 2020 - by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ro Khanna & Catherine Killough and Christine Ahn / The National Interest

Markey and Khanna Lead Bicameral Bill to Take War with North Korea Off the Table

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ro Khanna / United States Senate and House of Representatives

Amid the uncertain fate of Kim Jong Un and following illegal Trump strike against Iran, legislation would prevent unauthorized US military action against North Korea

Washington (April 28, 2020) — Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) announced the introduction of legislation that bars President Donald Trump from waging an unauthorized armed conflict against North Korea.

The introduction of the No Unconstitutional War with North Korea Act of 2020 comes on the heels of conflicting press reports regarding the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the possibility of a contested succession of power. President Trump sent conflicted messages in his press conference yesterday saying he “has a very good idea” about the status of Kim Jong Un, only to say later on that “nobody knows where he is.” 

The No Unconstitutional War with North Korea Act prohibits making funds available to the US Department of Defense or to any other federal department or agency to be used to engage militarily with North Korea without the prior approval of Congress or in response to an armed attack against the United States.

Also co-sponsoring the legislation are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

 “While developments inside North Korea are unclear, the United States must be absolutely clear in signaling that we do not seek war with Pyongyang, regardless of who heads the country,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“President Trump must not be tempted to return to the charged rhetoric of ‘fire and fury,’ which would only move us away from our security interests of denuclearization and ending conflict on the peninsula. Unauthorized, reckless military action in North Korea would put the lives of tens of thousands of US armed service members and millions of our South Korean allies at great risk. I am proud to once again partner with Representative Khanna to avert a catastrophic war.”

 “The president must come to Congress before starting a war, period,” said Rep. Khanna. “Between the uncertainty surrounding Kim Jung Un’s health and the reports of ‘contingency plans’ in place if there were to be a change in leadership, American foreign policy must prioritize a diplomatic approach toward achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The current state of world affairs only underlies the importance of Congress reclaiming its constitutional authority over matter of war and pace. I’m proud to partner again with Senator Markey on this effort to prevent an unconstitutional war in North Korea.”

The Markey-Khanna bill follows their similar bicameral effort in the 115th Congress, the No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act, which was introduced after tensions between the United States and North Korea raised the prospect of war. Since June 2018 Singapore Summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, direct talks have stalled and Kim previewed that he may resume longer-range ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2020. 

The legislation is endorsed by Win Without War, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Women Cross DMZ, Peace Action, the Ploughshares Fund, and Foreign Policy for America.

 “We are facing tremendous uncertainty in North Korea – a potential leadership crisis and the start of a pandemic that the country is ill-equipped to handle. The only engagement that makes sense is diplomacy, to restart negotiations and provide direly-needed assistance to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Erica Fein, advocacy director, Win Without War. “Given these uncertain times, and President Trump’s long history of erratic behavior, it is only wise for Senator Markey and Representative Khanna to reintroduce legislation that reinforces that Congress, not the president, has the power to start, and ultimately fund, a war.”

 “For too long, members of Congress have ceded their power over war decisions to the administration. This bill would rightly put the solemn choice over what would be a catastrophic war with North Korea back where the nation’s founders intended—with Congress,” said Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

 “This year marks 70 years of the unresolved Korean War, and the risk of renewed military conflict remains high. Congress has the constitutionally-mandated power to prevent unilateral and unauthorized strikes, and this bill is a critical step toward exercising that power,” said Christine Ahn, Founder and Executive Director, Women Cross DMZ. “It is crucial that Members co-sponsor this legislation in order to demonstrate their commitment to de-escalating and working toward peace.”

 “During the pandemonium of this pandemic we need more world cooperation and less conflict.  Thankfully, this legislation, led by national security leaders, Senator Markey and Representative Khanna, echoes taxpayers’ desire for the more economical solution to our disagreements with North Korea: dialogue over destruction,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Policy Director, Peace Action. 

“While photo ops and summits represent initial steps, the Trump administration needs to conduct deep diplomacy with North Korea and the region. Additionally, this bill builds on the bipartisan legislation Congress passed on Yemen and Iran reminding the Executive Branch that the Constitution clearly states that only Congress declares war.”

 “If President Trump handles North Korea in the same reckless way he is attempting to address COVID-19, we are in big trouble. We must ensure that the President cannot start a war or launch a nuclear first strike without the explicit authorization of Congress. The Constitution requires no less,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, the Ploughshares Fund.

 “With more uncertainty on the Korean peninsula than ever before, Congress must act to prevent a reckless decision that could endanger millions of lives,” said said Cassandra Varanka, Advocacy Director, Foreign Policy for America. “This bill makes clear that diplomacy is the only way forward to address the North Korean nuclear program. FP4A thanks Senator Markey and Rep. Khanna for prioritizing diplomacy and reasserting congressional war making authority with this important bill.”

READ: A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Why North Korea and America Need Reconciliation—Not Endless Kim Jong-Un Death Rumors

Catherine Killough and Christine Ahn / The National Interest

Instead of speculating on North Karean palace intrigue, we would all be better off finding ways to improve US-North Korea relations

(April 27, 2020) — No one knows exactly what would happen if Kim Jong-un died suddenly. But we can be certain that the North Korean regime has meticulously considered every possible disruptive scenario and is prepared to guard against outside interference. After all, this is a regime that emerged from the rubble of indiscriminate US bombing campaigns that destroyed 80 percent of its cities.

History shows that North Korea is extremely resilient to some of the worst crises, including famine in the 1990s, proving many a distinguished expert who predicted the country’s imminent collapse wrongtime and time again

Shortly after the hashtag #KIMJONGUNDEAD went viral with 300,000 tweets, South Korea’s Special Adviser to the President, Moon Chung-in, asserted, “Our government position is firm. Kim Jong Un is alive and well.” While this may help to temporarily put the rumors to rest, the speed and furor with which speculation over Kim’s death spread on social media and major news outlets should give us all pause. 

That so much US thinking on North Korea relies on guesswork, paranoia, and intrigue—even among the best experts and policy wonks—is cause for great concern. To state the obvious, uncertainty and the lack of clear communication channels makes a bad combination for two nuclear-armed states that are still technically at war. The unresolved Korean War has only ever allowed mistrust and antagonism between Washington and Pyongyang to grow in the place of understanding and reconciliation. 

This is why we need a wholly new approach toward North Korea that embraces peacebuilding. For seven decades, US policy has favored diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, and military pressure against North Korea—the results of which have only worsened relations, caused undue harm to everyday North Koreans and increased the risk of conflict in the region.

Furthermore, this broken US policy has impeded inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, from blocking joint Korean economic projects to literally halting an inter-Korean train project in its tracks. This has delayed peace for 80 million Koreans and kept thousands of Korean families separated and held hostage to an unresolved war. The absence of a diplomatic relationship has only made us embarrassingly ill-equipped to verify thinly-sourced reports as consequential as Kim’s death, and, in the event that it were true, to avoid the worst-case scenarios. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of speculating on North Korean palace intrigue, we would all be better off finding ways to improve US-North Korea relations. Until we sincerely attempt to deal with North Korea as it is—instead of holding onto the fantasy that it will collapse or surrender—we will never make it out of this dangerous cycle. 

Catherine Killough is Advocacy and Leadership Coordinator and Christine Ahn is Founder and Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ.

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