After President Donald Trump escalated his comments about North Korea on Thursday, Washington Congressman Adam Smith said some of the president’s rhetoric was “concerning.”
Trump warned North Korea they “better get their act together” or there would be trouble.
KING 5’s Ryan Takeo sat down with Smith, D-Wash. Dist. 9, to talk about Trump’s new threat and what the next steps should be for the U.S. The congressman has a lot more faith in the Pentagon than the president, but he still had some of his own tough talk toward North Korea.
Smith, who is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, was in Bellevue for an event Thursday.
KING 5: A reaction to the past 24 hours?
Congressman Adam Smith: Look, I think the thing with North Korea that you have to remember is while their regime is certainly unstable and dangerous, they are not suicidal. They’ve built these weapons in the first place. They said because they wanted to make sure that no one could take them out. They built it for regime preservation, so if they use these weapons, we will obliterate them, and they have to know that.
And I hope that we avoid stumbling into a conflict over rhetoric and instead make diplomatically clear that if they use these weapons against us or any of our allies, they may have some capability; we have much much more. So I think communicating that deterrent is very important.
KING 5: Are you concerned we’re on the process of stumbling toward (conflict)?
Smith: I actually have a fair amount of faith in the folks over at the Pentagon. The president occasionally uses rhetoric that is concerning to me, but I’ve spoken to Secretary (James) Mattis, I’ve spoken to General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I think they understand what’s at stake and I think they’re going to be very judicious about using any sort of military force and stumbling into that conflict.
KING 5: Because the “fire and fury” comments have been the headline grabber.
Smith: Yeah, it’s just rhetoric, and Kim Jong Un has used a lot of rhetoric, too, but I think behind the scenes, certainly from Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson and others a calmer approach. Make no mistake about it, North Korea is dangerous. You don’t want a country that isolated from the rest of the world with nuclear weapons, but that’s where they are, so we have to contain that threat and deal with it as it is.
KING 5: What are the next steps for your committee (House Armed Services)?
Smith: Missile defense is obviously important. Building up a fair deterrent in South Korea and elsewhere to hopefully be able to shoot down any missiles that might be shot and then also working closely especially with our allies, with South Korea, with Japan, even with China on making it clear with North Korea that the world will be united against them. I think the U.S. resolution on sanctions is very helping in sending that message that if they do anything, they simply don’t have any friends, and again, if this is all about the survival of Kim Jong Un and his regime, then doing anything militarily will guarantee the opposite. That’s what I think we should focus on.
KING 5: For folks who are watching who might be concerned over the past couple of days – your message to them.
Smith: Look, you want me to tell everyone, “It’s all good. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to see here.” I can’t do that because, again, North Korea is a dangerous country, but I believe that this is a conflict that can absolutely be avoided, and I believe that it will be avoided. So, I don’t think that the overheated rhetoric will lead to violence, and I’m working very hard with my friends in the Pentagon and my colleagues back in Congress to communicate that message and make sure that we avoid that conflict.