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US Congress introduces bill to ban strike on N. Korea

US Congress (AP-Yonhap)
US Congress (AP-Yonhap)

US Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Ro Khanna introduced Tuesday legislation that would bar President Donald Trump from waging military action against North Korea, unless Pyongyang delivers a preemptive strike or the US Congress authorizes it in advance.

The bill, initially introduced in 2017 but which failed to get past the committee approval, surfaced again amid lingering tensions over recent conflicting reports on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s health and his whereabouts.

“While developments inside North Korea are unclear, the United States must be absolutely clear in signaling that we do not seek war with Pyongyang, regardless of who heads the country,” Sen. Markey, a ranking member of the East Asia Subcommittee, wrote in a press release on his website.

“The president must come to Congress before starting a war, period,” Rep. Khanna said in a separate online press release, adding the US should prioritize a diplomatic approach to achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula in the event of a leadership change in Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, several US security experts were critical of President Moon Jae-in when he spoke this week of resuming inter-Korean cooperation. Exchanges between the two Koreas have been halted at least since late last year when denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang fell apart.

“The timing of this statement, of course, seems misplaced. The vision proposed seems neither ‘realistic’ nor ‘practical’ in light of what’s going on in North Korea,” Soo Kim, an analyst at think tank Rand, told Radio Free Asia.

In a meeting with his chief aides, Moon discussed relinking railways along the country’s east coast, cut since the 1950-53 Korean War, as part of inter-Korean exchanges, which he said were not subject to UN sanctions because they were humanitarian in nature.

Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to reconnect the railways back at the April 2018 summit, with no noticeable progress on the project. The presidential Blue House said Pyongyang has yet to respond to Moon’s offer to restart the inter-Korean project.

President Moon Jae-in holds a meeting with his chief aides on April 27, 2020. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in holds a meeting with his chief aides on April 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

“The best thing President Moon can do now is work behind the scenes to ensure that if Donald Trump is reelected, both Washington and Pyongyang could move quickly on a peace deal,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of the Korean Studies at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.

The US State Department reiterated its earlier stance that it is coordinating with Seoul to ensure exchanges between the two Koreas proceed in lockstep with progress on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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