A group of progressive House Democrats, led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), is bucking their leadership and supporting President Trump’s diplomatic efforts on North Korea.
Khanna and 14 Democratic colleagues on Monday sent a letter to Trump — ahead of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — saying they were “encouraged” by his efforts to resolve the Korean War and achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“We are encouraged by your efforts to pursue direct diplomacy with North Korea with the dual goals of resolving the nearly seven-decade-long conflict and achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” they wrote.
They also said they were concerned that some, from both parties and inside and outside of his administration, seek to “scuttle progress by attempting to place conditions on the talks, including the insisting on full and immediate denuclearization or other unrealistic commitments by North Korea at an early date.”
“Requiring unreasonable concessions before talking, or early in the negotiations process, is precisely why this conflict remains unresolved,” they wrote.
The House Democrat letter is signed by Reps. Raul Grijalva (AZ), Barbara Lee (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Bobby Rush (IL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Madeleine Bordallo (GUAM), Colleen Hanabusa (HI), Mark DeSaulnier (CA), Richard Nolan (MN), Karen Bass (CA), Jared Huffman (CA), and Jamie Raskin (MD).
Their letter stood in stark contrast to one sent on Monday to the president by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and six Senate Democrats, which said they would oppose any agreement Trump reached with North Korea unless certain and conditions were met.
Joel Wit, director of 38 North and a fellow at the Stimson Center, told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof: “The Democrats have gone overboard in the conditions they listed in the letter. … If they’re serious, it’s a prescription for failure because no one could achieve the conditions. It’s maybe payback for everything they were dealt in the Iran deal.”
The House lawmakers said they instead “emphasize the tremendous value of incremental progress” that advances the potential for future agreements.
They said some positive steps they would endorse, combined with commensurate actions by North Korea, include:
— pledges or agreements to formally end the 68-year war,
— ending the practice of U.S.-ROK “decapitation” military exercises,
— support for important cooperative efforts such as vital humanitarian assistance; parliamentarian dialogue and exchanges; reunions between Koreans and Korean American families; and the repatriation of US servicemember remains.
“Such steps, combined with commensurate actions by North Korea, could help facilitate the phased denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” they wrote.
They also warned that in the event of a collapse in talks, they would oppose any effort to wage war against North Korea, except in response to a sudden attack.
“Accordingly, we stand ready to provide support for potentially historic progress made through diplomacy, but will continue to stand with our ally South Korea in vehemently opposing any return to threats of illegal and unacceptable military action,” they wrote.
A recent poll said a vast majority of Americans — 70 percent — support Trump meeting with North Korea.