The administration of President Donald Trump has announced plans to step up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea as tensions mount on the Korean peninsula.
Senators were invited April 26 to a classified briefing on the situation at the White House, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spoke, the Guardian reported.
A statement released by the three senior Trump administration officials warned, "we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies," according to the Associated Press.
However, it called on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to "de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue" and added that the U.S. "remains open to negotiations."
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A Trump administration official, speaking anonymously, said that the U.S. was considering returning North Korea to the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Speaking after the briefing, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware noted that the senators at the meeting "were not presented with any specific military option." While stating that he thought Trump's approach was appropriate, he added that a resolution would require "persistent engaged allocation of diplomatic and military resources and effort."
Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, told a congressional committee April 26 that millions of lives would be put at risk in South Korea if North Korea retaliated to a military strike.
"I would say what we're faced with is that... a lot more Koreans and Japanese and Americans dying if North Korea achieves its nuclear aims and does what [Kim Jong-un] has said it's going to do," Harris added.
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He called for a strong military build-up by sending the guided missile submarine USS Michigan to the area, deploying the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters, and flying over the peninsula with B-1 and B-52 bombers.
Harris indicated that he believed denuclearizing the Korean peninsula was no longer possible.
"Just as Thomas Edison is believed to have failed 1,000 times before successfully inventing the light bulb, so, too, Kim Jong-un will keep trying. One of these days soon, he will succeed," Harris said.
In a statement from North Korea's U.N. representative, Pyongyang stated that it would respond militarily to the launching of "a total war" by the U.S.
North Korea would "surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists," it added, according to AP.
The statement went on to say that North Korea "can never be frightened" and would not be brought "into submission" by Washington.