January 16, 2018

Duckworth, Gallego Return from South Korea & Japan, Warn About True Risks of War with North Korea


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) returned today from an official trip to South Korea and Japan with a warning about how deadly and destructive renewed hostilities with North Korea would be. Duckworth, who was joined on the trip by fellow combat Veteran U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), spent four days meeting with America’s top military leaders and diplomats in the region, with Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministers from Japan and South Korea, with North Korean defectors, human rights activists and American servicemembers from across the country, including Illinois and Arizona. Duckworth and Gallego will hold a pen and pad at 3:15 pm tomorrow in the U.S. Capitol (S-316) and Duckworth will share her takeaways from her trip Thursday evening in a speech at Georgetown University that will be open to the media. Details about that speech will follow.

“After visiting South Korea and Japan and meeting with many diplomats, military leaders and servicemembers, it is clear that the costs of war in the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic and claim countless military and civilian lives. It is equally clear that we need to maintain our strong alliances with South Korea and Japan and support our defense forces in the region to effectively deter North Korea,” said Senator Duckworth. “While I am encouraged by North Korea’s return to the negotiating table, we will not compromise on denuclearization.”

“The brave Americans, South Koreans, and Japanese that I met briefed me on the sobering military picture on the Korean Peninsula,” said Congressman Gallego. “They also reminded me of all of the capable people in our defense, intelligence, diplomatic, and security services who are working tirelessly to keep us safe. We – and they – deserve calm leadership from the White House and an unbreakable commitment to only send them to war when there are no better options. As we return to Washington, we will be highlighting those options for the good of the country.”

In South Korea, Duckworth and Gallego:

· Met with U.S. Embassy personnel in Seoul
· Met with the Republic of Korea’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo;
· Were briefed by the Commander of the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea, Army General Vincent K. Brooks, and the Deputy Commander of the Combined Forces Command and the Commander of the Ground Component Command, General Kim Byeong-joo, during a visit to the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan;
· Heard from a North Korean defector and the founder of a North Korean human rights organization, Now, Action and Unity for Human Rights;
· Toured the Demilitarized Zone (“DMZ”) and met with servicemembers from Illinois and Arizona at Camp Bonifas;
· Met with the Commanding General of the Eighth Army and Chief of Staff of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command, Lieutenant General Michael A. Bills, and visited servicemembers at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.

In Japan, Duckworth and Gallego:

· Met with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masahisa Sato;
· Met with the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Keitaro Ohno;
· Met with the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Hagerty.

Duckworth has been outspoken about the need for the Trump administration to be clear-eyed about the costs of war with North Korea. Citing the lack of public debate before she deployed to Iraq, she wrote to President Trump asking him to share declassified military estimates of how many American servicemembers and innocent civilians would lose their lives if we went to war with North Korea. She is also an original co-sponsor of Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) legislation to prevent President Trump from launching a preemptive strike against North Korea without authorization from Congress unless there is an imminent threat.

Duckworth has also been a vocal critic of President Trump’s repeated use of reckless and irresponsible rhetoric towards North Korea, which has needlessly put American Servicemembers at risk. The United States has nearly 80,000 servicemembers stationed in South Korea and Japan.