New warnings about North Korean advances on its nuclear weapons program demonstrate the need for President Donald Trump to enforce sanctions rather than encourage an arms race with the reclusive nation and its unpredictable leader, Kim Jong-un, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus said Thursday.
“Rather than saber rattling, the Trump administration should focus on fully implementing and enforcing these sanctions. We should also not encourage an arms race in Asia as Trump suggested during the campaign,” said Titus, D-Nev., and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Titus’ comments came in response to a Review-Journal query after the committee Tuesday heard experts testify that North Korea has been skirting sanctions with help from China and is close to developing a nuclear warhead for delivery by an intercontinental ballistic missile or one launched by a submarine.
“I understand how important it is that the United States work with our allies in the Pacific region to counter any attempts by the regime in North Korea to further its nuclear programs,” Titus said in an email provided by her spokesman, adding that she supported additional sanctions against North Korea last year.
Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., opened the hearing Tuesday, saying, “At this point it’s clear that very, very soon North Korea is going to be able to target all 50 states in the United States as well as our allies.”
The impact on nuclear proliferation, he said, “is really a game-changer to our national security.”
Royce said his concern is based on North Korea’s two nuclear weapons tests last year with 20 tests of its ICBM systems. He noted there is an effort “right now to miniaturize” a warhead to fit the tip of a missile, “and that’s what’s got our attention.”
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, said North Korea is “a few years or less from a weapon that could reach the United States,” which makes this “one of the most complicated and dangerous national security issues we’re facing.”
He said he is worried about Trump’s desire to greatly enhance the U.S. nuclear capability and fears the president’s arms-race comments suggesting that more countries should have access to nuclear weapons will add fuel to the fiery issue.
One expert who testified, Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea chairman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it’s “highly likely that the North will carry out another ICBM test or nuclear test early in the Trump administration.”
“The purpose would be to demonstrate advances in the technology and assert a position of strength that would put the president back on his heels,” Cha said.
In his first overseas trip as defense secretary, Jim Mattis, with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo by his side, last week warned North Korea, saying, “Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would effective and overwhelming.”
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