On Wednesday, President Trump invited all 100 senators to the White House for a rare closed-door briefing on the situation in North Korea.
“Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a joint statement. “With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the U.S. homeland.”
In addition, the statement said North Korea’s interest in nuclear weapons is “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.”
This rare meeting showed the growing concerns of the United States over the progress North Korea has made in developing nuclear weapons that have the capability to reach the American mainland.
Not only is America concerned, but other countries are as well. North Korea has threatened anyone that decides to take the side of the United States with a nuclear strike.
“The military is obviously planning for a number of options,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters following the meeting. “It is of course the hope that military action does not prove necessary but if there is a clear and imminent threat to the United States, our military needs to be prepared to act.”
Within the past couple of weeks, President Trump has ordered high-powered military ships to the Pyongyang region in a show of strength with hopes that North Korea will refrain from testing more missiles.
On Wednesday, South Korea began preparing for a missile strike from Pyongyang by installing a new missile defense system. The United States Pacific forces commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr. told Congress that the system will be operational within the next few days. He also said that any missile fired from North Korea that targets U.S. forces will be destroyed.
“If it flies, it will die,” Harris said.
While a pre-emptive strike on North Korea from the U.S. is highly unlikely, President Trump has said that all options are on the table. However, American officials have said the administration’s strategy is to put pressure on North Korea with the help of the Chinese government.
Sen. Ben Cardin, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, said he was hoping to hear the Trump administration’s strategy on Wednesday.
The U.S. needs a strategy to change North Korea’s economic and security calculus for it to freeze and ultimately eliminate its nuclear and missile programs, he said, adding: There’s no “pretty military solution.”
While some senators were skeptical of the White House meeting, members of both parties expressed their satisfaction with the President.
“It was a sobering briefing, and an important opportunity for the entire Senate to hear the emerging plans of the Trump administration to confront what is a very real threat to our security,” said Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware.
Coons told reporters that Trump’s decision to speak to all 100 senators at the White House was a positive sign that the administration is serious about the North Korea issue.
Others were not as reassured, such as Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said the briefing was just “OK.”
On Wednesday, North Korea’s U.N. mission said it would react to ‘‘a total war’’ with the U.S. with nuclear war. It said it would win in a “death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists.”