by Sophia Mauro
On January 18, 2018, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) came to Georgetown to discuss the threat of war with North Korea. She had just returned from four days conducting meetings with U.S., Korean, and Japanese military and government officials in the Korean peninsula and Japan. The Senator discussed the threat of war with North Korea, her thoughts on how the United States should best mitigate this threat, and the importance of Congress’ role in declaring war.
Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War, returned from the official trip determined to mitigate the Korean threat, as well as highlight the importance of military readiness. “Kim Jong Un poses a serious and deadly threat to millions of people on the Korean peninsula, in the Pacific theater, and in the United States and the prospect of war is far more dangerous and far more likely than many Americans realize,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth emphasized the Congressional role in declaring war and ensuring peace, referring to its Constitutional mandate to defend the nation. “One of Congress’s most solemn responsibilities is deciding when and how we choose to send Americans into combat. But we’ve failed to do that.”
Finally, Duckworth discussed President Trump’s diplomatic efforts in the region, imploring him to refrain from tweeting policy decisions or taunts at foreign leaders. That behavior “de-legitimizes serious diplomatic efforts and undermines our military while sowing confusion among our allies in an international system that is crying out for stability.”
After the address, Duckworth was joined by a panel of experts from the School of Foreign Service to discuss the diplomatic strategies and tactics for mitigating the North Korean threat. Anthony Clark Arend, Professor of Government and Foreign Service and Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Graduate Affairs,moderated the discussion, before opening it up to questions from the audience.
Oriana Skylar Mastro, Assistant Professor of Security Studies, focused on the issue from a global and regional perspective. As an expert in Chinese military and security policy and Asia-Pacific security issues, she highlighted the importance of China’s role in the region and called for the United States’ military and diplomatic efforts to reassess their stance toward China. She cited the presence of 85% of all North Korean nuclear facilities within 100 kilometers of the Chinese border. “Given this,” Mastro said, “the Chinese are fully prepared to move in… so we need to have a defacto planning assumption that the Chinese will already be there.”
Michael Green, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Foreign Service and Director of the Asian Studies Program, discussed the efficacy of sanctions in eliminating the North Korean threat. In addition, he hypothesized about North Korea’s response to the use of force. The really hard debate that needs to be had in our country, Green said, is “how do we rollback, contain, deter North Korea in an environment where they will be more emboldened, more dangerous?”
The event was sponsored by the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and co-sponsored by the Georgetown Office of Federal Relations, Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service, and Georgetown University College Democrats.