U.S. Senator Bob Corker talks about pre-emptive strike on North Korea

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U.S. Senator Bob Corker talks about pre-emptive strike on North Korea

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U.S. Senator Bob Corker

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said Tuesday during the committee’s first hearing on North Korea this year that Washington should “think outside the box” regarding its strategy towards Pyongyang and that one example is to “be prepared to preemptively strike a North Korean ICBM,” or intercontinental ballistic missile.

The comment comes amid rising tension in South Korea and the U.S. after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared in his New Year’s address on Jan. 1 that his country was in its “final stage” of test-firing an ICBM, which would be the first of such tests if Kim actually follows through.

Seoul has yet to acknowledge detecting any signs that the North was preparing a test-fire, although several military sources here claim to have discovered two new missiles along North Korea’s eastern coast that could be an ICBM under work.

Pyongyang said through its state media that it will push through the test “any time, any where” Kim wishes.

“Past approaches have not yielded the desired result,” said Corker, adding that the threat posed by North Korea has “only grown more alarming.”

At one point after suggesting that Washington should think of new North Korean policies, Corker rhetorically asked: “Does the pursuit of North Korea denuclearization remain a realistic policy objective in the near term? Alternatively, should the United States consider a policy approach that proactively pursues regime change in North Korea by non-kinetic means?”

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland, a ranking member of the committee, cast doubt on President Trump’s tweet in response to Kim’s New Year’s threat, in which Trump wrote: “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

Cardin said he was “concerned” about the role of U.S. foreign policy when Trump announces policies “without having it properly vetted by the relevant agencies and the experts, recognizing the adverse consequences to some of his statements.

“It’s clear to me that the United States alone has little chance of preventing North Korea from achieving its stated objective,” said Cardin, “and that we need to work with other countries.”

First and foremost, he said, is Washington’s reliance on South Korea and Japan.

“I’m glad that [Defense] Secretary Mattis in his first foreign trip is visiting our allies in that region.” The visit will be a “very important statement,” he added.

Mattis plans to arrive in Seoul Thursday for a two-day visit and will fly to Japan Friday.

Meanwhile earlier on Wednesday, Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked over the phone with Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and agreed to form a “strong joint defense posture” against North Korean provocations.

The phone call lasted for about 20 minutes, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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