Minuteman III launches from Vandenberg


The volatile situation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program escalated significantly on August 8, when Donald Trump threatened war after news broke in the Washington Post that the North Korean regime may now be able to fit nuclear weapons on its missiles. As rhetoric on both sides and the threat of war grows more intense, we need pro-diplomacy voices to make it clear that war with North Korea would be devastating, and that the only option is to get back to the negotiating table.

While an advancing North Korean nuclear weapons program is an unwelcome development, it is highly unlikely that North Korea would strike South Korea or the United States without a serious provocation, as its leaders’ primary goal is regime survival. If any military action was taken, it could escalate very quickly into a full scale war and result in at least one million deaths. Trump’s words have isolated the United States from our regional allies, and run contrary to what Americans overwhelmingly want – diplomacy.


  • Do you agree that any military intervention with North Korea could quickly escalate to a catastrophic war? If so, will you strongly oppose any proposed military actions?
  • Former US Defense Secretary William Perry has said that North Korea is not crazy, and that the real danger is stumbling into a nuclear war. What will you do to ensure that the Trump administration does not make any rash decisions that put us and the world in danger? 
  • There is currently no US Ambassador to South Korea. How can we pursue diplomacy without this key official, and what will you do to pressure the administration to appoint an Ambassador as soon as possible?
  • Experts agree that it is very unlikely that North Korea is seeking to start a war, but is rather trying to maintain its regime. With so much fear mongering going around in the media, what will you do to make sure this growing issue does not get blown out of proportion and potentially lead us into war?


War with North Korea would be catastrophic

  • Even without using nuclear weapons, a war with North Korea would require a full ground assault that would likely result in at least one million killed and a total disruption of the world economy.
  • According to analysts, “This isn’t a war that’s winnable by air. You’re going to have to go onto the ground,” meaning a full-scale ground war with American troops.

Trump is isolating the United States

  • Trump has already squandered his administration’s recent victory at the United Nations, which unanimously passed a U.S.-led sanctions resolution on North Korea.
  • Trump’s reckless rhetoric not only isolates and divides the U.S. from its regional allies and partners, Japan, South Korea, and China, but also emboldens the North Koreans to claim that America is the real threat, and to justify their nuclear program’s advances.
  • In particular, his comments largely contradict South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been a vocal proponent of direct talks with North Korea.

The only real option is to pursue negotiations

  • Whether setting up a private diplomatic back-channel, creating a military-to-military hotline, or re-starting multilateral negotiations, diplomacy can take many different forms. Most importantly, the Trump administration must keep the door to talks open.
  • The Trump administration has attempted and continues to reach out to the North Koreans behind the scenes; however, without officials in key positions, successful diplomacy will be difficult.
  • The Trump administration should immediately nominate an Ambassador to South Korea, an under secretary for arms control and international security, and an assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
  • Other officials in the administration, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have suggested that diplomacy is still on the table, saying that “Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” in response to Trump’s “fire and fury” comments.

Polls show Americans want diplomacy

  • One recent poll found that 72 percent said they were uneasy about war with North Korea and 60 percent said the threat could be contained.
  • Another survey from April found that while 70 percent consider North Korea a threat, 81 percent supported diplomacy as a means to combat it.

North Korea is not irrational

  • While it’s tempting to portray North Korea’s advancing capabilities as an existential crisis for the United States and its allies, it’s important to remember that it’s very unlikely the North Koreans are seeking to start a war. In reality, North Korea is consumed with regime survival. 
    • We unnecessarily back ourselves into a corner by suggesting that North Korea is an existential threat to the United States, hastening the need for military action and taking the diplomatic option off the table.
  • As former US Defense Secretary William Perry — a nuclear weapons policy expert who once advocated for attacking North Korea — said recently, “They are not crazy. They know that if they did [launch an attack] the regime would be destroyed; their country would be devastated. In other words, deterrence does work with North Korea. They’re not irrational.”
  • Los Alamos National Lab Direction Sig Hecker, who has personally inspected North Korea’s nuclear facilities has stated, “Some like to depict Kim as being crazy — a madman — and that makes the public believe that the guy is undeterrable. He’s not crazy and he’s not suicidal. And he’s not even unpredictable.”