Trump Administration Discloses N. Korea Policy Directions
The Donald Trump administration has outlined its approach to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, focusing on increasing pressure through economic sanctions and diplomatic channels while keeping the door open for dialogue.
The approach was revealed in a joint statement issued by U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Wednesday.
Issued following a rare briefing to the entire U.S. Senate on the North at the White House, the statement said the U.S. seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of North Korea. It added the U.S. remains open to negotiations towards that goal but clarified it is also prepared to defend itself and its allies.
Declaring that past efforts have failed to halt North Korea's unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests, the U.S. said the North’s development of nuclear weapons is “an urgent national security threat and its top foreign policy priority.”
The statement also said the U.S. will call other nations to pressure the North to lower its nuclear threats gradually and restart dialogue. It said the U.S. will cooperate to safeguard regional stability and prosperity, and maintain harmony and cooperation with its allies including South Korea and Japan.
It is the first joint statement issued by the U.S. government on North Korea since Trump’s inauguration in January.
The statement did not include the strong threats Trump had made against Pyongyang, such as the potential use of force and preemptive strikes, leading some critics to dismiss Trump’s approach to North Korea as a variation of the “strategic patience” policy under the Barack Obama administration.
However, some experts said Washington would have developed stronger policies against the North if the regime had pushed forward with speculated provocative actions, such as a nuclear or missile test.
Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said Thursday that the Trump administration’s policy for North Korea is only the first step, noting there are other options available to deal with the North’s threats. Thornton also emphasized that the U.S. will talk with North Korea only when Pyongyang makes certain it will denuclearize.
Meanwhile, Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that North Korean missiles will be immediately intercepted upon launch.