Remaining Vigilant as We Make Headway
Last month, historic steps were taken by South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as they shook hands in Panmunjom in the Joint Security Area of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after years of hostilities. While Kim Jong-Un has given us reason to be skeptical over the years, I am cautiously optimistic that thanks in part to President Trump’s leadership, and in part because of sanctions from the international community, North Korea is willing to come to the negotiating table.
For 9 months in 1973-74, I was stationed at Camp Casey in South Korea as a medic in the United States Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War. I’ve seen first-hand how destructive a regime committed to havoc can be, and I have serious concerns about a nuclear North Korea. We must do everything we can to prevent this hostile regime from maintaining access to nuclear weapons. North Korea has served as a destabilizing force in Southeast Asia, and any negotiation must result in the removal of these deadly weapons.
Over the years, North Korea has launched many ballistic missile tests, some that have been reportedly capable of striking anywhere in the continental U.S. These reckless threats have alarmed the world, and brought our countries to the brink of war. No country is more threatened by North Korea than its neighbor to the south, so I applaud President Moon for his willingness to engage the north and work to end hostilities. Any dialogue that advances the topic of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula is worth pursuing. According to President Moon, his hope was to convince leader Kim “to adopt a joint statement on the denuclearization of North Korea.”
President Trump and his national security team deserve credit for pursuing a strategy that has made the North Koreans seek to engage in dialogue. Congress has also sent clear signals to North Korea that more stringent sanctions could be on the horizon. For instance, as a result of the North’s missile tests, I voted in favor of H.R. 1644, the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act last year, a measure to strengthen sanctions and hold Kim Jong-Un accountable.
I think this meeting between the two Korean leaders is a very positive step and I am cautiously optimistic. I certainly think it makes more sense to talk than to shoot missiles. I am hopeful President Trump’s upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-Un this year will result in long-term peace, but we also have to keep our guard up and be mindful of the over 30,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout South Korea guarding the DMZ. I’ve seen North Korea promise things and go back on their word, but I believe we could be on the verge of a historic breakthrough thanks to the leadership of the president.Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.