While we celebrated our independence on July 4, North Korea successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that flew longer and reached a higher altitude than any previously tested by the rogue regime.
Over the past six years, Kim Jong Un’s regime has conducted approximately 80 ballistic missile tests and three nuclear tests. The U.S. Pacific Command confirmed that this latest missile test shows Kim Jong Un's regime may now possess the ability to strike Alaska.
Several senior officials at the Department of Defense (DOD) have publicly stated that it is not a matter of “if” North Korea would get the capability to threaten the contiguous U.S. with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, but “when.” That concern is certainly amplified by the frequency and successes of Pyongyang’s recent tests. Our efforts to address this threat must be accelerated.
All options must remain on the table when dealing with an unstable regime like North Korea. That is not to say diplomatic efforts should not be exhausted first. President Trump has rightly pushed regional powers China and Japan to do more to end North Korea’s provocations. South Korea’s newly-elected President Moon Jae-in has indicated that he is willing to meet with Kim Jong Un to discuss how to deescalate the heightened tensions.
At the G-20 Summit, President Trump, President Moon and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced they will press for the early adoption of a new United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution with additional sanctions to demonstrate to Pyongyang that there are serious consequences for its destabilizing, provocative and escalatory actions. The President also assured our allies that the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea and Japan is “ironclad.”
Additional UN sanctions against North Korea are something the international community should rally behind. This step would follow on the heels of action Congress took last year to authorize additional U.S. sanctions against North Korea. The North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016, which was signed into law in early 2016, requires the President to mandate for sanctions anyone who can be tied to the following activities in North Korea: arms trade, development of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery, procurement of luxury goods, censorship, money laundering and counterfeiting.
While we focus on getting Kim Jong Un to cease his belligerent actions, we cannot ignore the unpredictability of this rogue dictator. These tests show the North Korean threat is real. We must move quickly to protect our homeland from the very real danger.
There is legislation in the Senate, the Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act of 2017, that was drafted in direct response to the continued aggression from North Korea. The bill, which I am cosponsoring, seeks to strengthen and improve the reliability, capability and capacity of U.S. homeland missile defense. North Korea wants to put U.S. soil in its crosshairs. We must remove this capability. If we can’t get Kim Jong Un to dismantle his arsenal, then we need to have necessary protections in place to defend our homeland.
There can be no backing down to Kim Jong Un’s belligerent actions. The international community must continue to put pressure on the regime to change course and nations threatened by this irrational dictator, including the U.S., must take steps to defend themselves. There is no longer a “when;” when is now, and now is the time to act.