all eyes on north korea
On Wednesday, senators were briefed at the White House by top national security advisers on the situation in North Korea, but several said they left the meeting without hearing any solid details on how the U.S. will deal with the country as it remains intent on building a nuclear arsenal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked for the briefing, which was delivered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a statement, Tillerson, Mattis, and Coats said America's goal is to "convince the regime to de-escalate and return to a path of dialogue" toward peace. The U.S. does remain "open to negotiations," the statement read, but is "prepared to defend ourselves and our allies."
Several senators told The Washington Post that during the briefing, they did not learn much about how the U.S. will deal with North Korea and its provocations. "There was very little, if anything, new," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "I remain mystified about why the entire Senate had to be taken over to the White House rather than conducting it here." A Republican senator told the Post that the "basic gist of it at the beginning was that we're going to get more aggressive, we've waited and they've continued to be bad actors." The senators wanted to know what "we should be looking for as the trigger that something is about to happen and that we'd end up taking some kind of action," the senator recounted. "That's where things got a little elliptical."
Earlier in the day, Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, told Congress that the U.S. needs to take threats from North Korea very seriously, and should strengthen missile defenses in key areas like Hawaii.