In a recent appearance on the Washington Examiner podcast “Behind Closed Doors,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas warned that North Korea is not interested in denuclearization and cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith.
“We should be taking more steps than we are right now to be ready to fight a war, if that’s what’s necessary, with North Korea.” Cotton said.
Cotton, a combat veteran of the Iraq war and a close ally of the White House, made his remarks one day prior to Trump’s announcement that he would meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in May. Talks between the leaders will be aimed at convincing North Korea to dismantle its burgeoning nuclear weapons program.
The Trump administration has been relying heavily on China and its president, Xi Jinping, to assist them in denuclearizing North Korea, but Cotton sees trouble there.
“For years, China said they wanted a denuclearized North Korean peninsula. I think they’re lying about that. They obviously have no interest in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula because as long as North Korea is a nuclear power, it is the primary focus of the United States in Northeast Asia,” Cotton said. “Meanwhile, China runs wild, building islands in the South China Sea, intimidating Taiwan, oppressing its own people.”
North Korea has previously agreed to halt the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for financial incentives or aid, only to renege on those agreements.
Cotton asserted that Trump has learned from the past, but noted that there are no indications that North Korea has changed “because of their long history of manipulating diplomacy in their own advantage to gain concessions or buy time for their nuclear program.”
“The last three administrations, at a minimum, have been Charlie Brown to North Korea’s Lucy [with the football,] in that they’ve granted concessions for the mere act of sitting down to talk,” Cotton said. “If Kim Jong Un or one of his senior envoys wants to sit down with the United States, we should listen to them. But if they demand any kind of suspension of sanctions or food aid or financial aid in advance, we obviously should not do that.”
Despite the pending diplomatic talks, Cotton, who serves on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, recommended that the U.S. take steps to prove its willingness to employ the military option.
“We need to take steps like beginning to stop the deployment of military dependents to the Korean Peninsula and gradually removing dependents from the Korean peninsula,” Cotton said. “Stockpiling ammunition … fuel stores and so forth. We need to make it perfectly clear to Pyongyang and Beijing that we are prepared and willing to fight a war to stop North Korea from threatening us with nuclear weapons.”