Entire US Senate to descend on White House for N. Korea briefing

Entire US Senate to descend on White House for N. Korea briefing
The Trump administration has asked every member of the US Senate to meet at the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea, in a rare and unusual move, amid mounting tensions with Pyongyang.

All 100 senators have been asked to attend the Wednesday briefing, which will be conducted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday.

Although administration officials often travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy matters, it is unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and for all four of the aforementioned officials to be involved.

The briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but was changed after President Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, according to congressional aides cited by Reuters.

Aides have also suggested the briefing is being held at the White House to make clear to North Korea that Washington is serious about a shift in policy when it comes to Pyongyang.

Senators told Reuters they were happy to be hearing from the White House.

“It’s [the location] their choice,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I hope that we hear their policy as to what their objectives are, and how we can accomplish that hopefully without dropping bombs.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he hopes the administration will provide reassuring words that Pyongyang will not be given a chance to further develop ballistic missiles.

“By 2020, if nothing changes inside of North Korea, they’ll have the technology, they’ll have a breakthrough, to develop an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) that can reach America. I hope this president will say that’s a non-starter,” he said.

The briefing will take place at 3:00pm local time on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, congressional aides said they are also working with the White House to arrange a similar briefing for the House of Representatives.

Trump has taken a hardline stance against North Korea since taking office in January, repeatedly vowing to “solve the problem” of Pyongyang.

He told the UN Security Council on Monday that the “status quo” is not acceptable, and that the council must be ready to impose new sanctions on North Korea. 

Trump also had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the weekend. The US president has been urging Beijing to put more pressure on Pyongyang, as it is North Korea’s main economic lifeline.

North Korean state media has responded to Washington’s moves by stating that Pyongyang is ready to sink an aircraft carrier headed towards the Korean peninsula, claiming its deployment was a “foolish military provocative act.”

Two Japanese Navy destroyers joined the US carrier strike group in an apparent show of force as North Korea prepared to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of its military.