Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) said on Friday President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea has put the regime on notice of the devastating repercussions it will face should Kim Jong Un attack the United States or its Pacific allies.
Ernst, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., rejected the notion that Trump’s threat to decimate North Korea has impacted Kim’s desire to achieve a nuclear weapon capable of striking the United States.
“North Korea has been bent on obtaining nuclear capabilities for a very long time and I don’t see that it was the president or any of his words which spurred that action,” Ernst said. “When the president is talking about North Korea and the leader in North Korea, I think that honestly he’s speaking truth to the situation. When he says if North Korea comes at us we’re going to go back full force, well yeah, we’re going to go back full force. There’s no messing around with North Korea when they have nuclear capability.”
“I don’t see that his words have worsened the situation at all. If anything, it has put North Korea on alert that if they keep moving ahead with their intentions of putting a nuclear warhead onto an ICBM, that if they should use that technology, then we’re going to go after them,” she continued.
In an address to the United Nations last week, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States was ever forced to defend itself or its allies. The remark prompted an immediate response from Kim, who called the president “mentally deranged” and said the threat merited the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Trump’s UN address arrived just days after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan—the second such launch in less than a month.
In early September, Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test, considered to be the most powerful to date, prompting the Trump administration to warn that any threat to the United States or its allies “will be met with a massive military response.”
Trump on Tuesday warned the United States was “totally prepared” to take military action against North Korea if necessary, but stressed the use of force is not the administration’s “preferred option.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made clear the United States is pursuing all diplomatic options to tamp down the crisis.
As part of that effort, the Trump administration on Wednesday imposed another round of sanctionsagainst North Korea, blacklisting banks and individuals linked to the regime in China, Russia, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates.
Beijing, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korean trade, simultaneously ordered Chinese banks to stop conducting business with Pyongyang. But questions remain as to how seriously China will enforce the directive.
Ernst pointed to the black market of Chinese companies that help North Korea smuggle coal and other exports overseas to circumvent international sanctions on Pyongyang’s nuclear activities. Until this activity is cutoff, she said, sanctions will have little impact on the Kim regime.