Thursday, 14 June 2018

Congress to bind President’s hands on troop removal from Korean peninsula

Congress to bind President’s hands on troop removal from Korean peninsula

US congressmen are concerned that a peace arrangement might be brokered with North Korea

 

When the President wants to wage a war somewhere, he just does it, and no one bats an eye. But for the first time in a very long time, as opposed to escalating tensions, invading, and bombing somewhere, a US president is proposing to deescalate a situation and establish peace somewhere.
That’s a major thing in and of itself. But that’s not alright in the minds of US congressmen, who are concerned that a peace arrangement might be brokered with North Korea if Trump withdraws American troops from the Korean peninsula.
Due to this worry, predicated on the reality that they simply don’t trust Trump at his word, quite openly, they are drafting up some legislation, in both houses, that would bind the president’s hands in order to prevent any meaningful reduction or removal of US military presence in Korea.
ABC News reports:
A pair of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally drawing down the American troop presence on the Korean peninsula – not necessarily because he’s said he will, but because they don’t want to rely on his word that he won’t.

Other measures that also tie the president’s hands, but don’t go as far, are already closer to being passed as part of an essential military policy bill.
The new legislation, from Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., would prevent Trump from withdrawing troops from South Korea unless the secretary of defense says it’s in the interest of national security and that it would not undermine the security of allies in the region.
“U.S. troops are not bargaining chips to be offered up in an off-handed manner,” Duckworth said in a statement.
During his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Trump announced the U.S. would be ending large-scale annual military exercises conducted with South Korea but insisted that the status of the 28,500 American soldiers on the peninsula is not up for negotiation.
“They are going to stay. We didn’t even discuss that, that wasn’t discussed,” Trump said in an interview with Voice of America.
But he also said, during a press conference, that he still wants to draw down troops in Korea at some point – just not as part of negotiations over the North’s nuclear capability.
“At some point, I have to be honest. I used to say this during my campaign… I want to bring our soldiers back home. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. I would like to be able to bring them back home. That’s not part of the equation. At some point, I hope it would be,” he said.
That type of uncertainty was enough for Murphy to try to establish some new restrictions.
“I don’t think it’s smart policy for Congress to rely on the word of the president,” the Connecticut Democrat told ABC. “This time he gave away exercises for nothing, what’s to stop him from giving away troops for nothing?”
The two Democrats want their amendment added to the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military policy for the next fiscal year. The House’s version already has a similar provision, which would limit funds that can be used to reduce troop levels in South Korea, and the Senate includes a “sense of the Senate” provision stipulating that “the significant removal of the United States military forces from the Korean Peninsula is a non-negotiable item” as it relates to North Korea’s denuclearization.
Once each chamber passes its respective NDAA, the two must be merged in what is known as a conference committee.
So while Murphy would obviously like to see his bill passed, he acknowledged that this year’s NDAA will be making some sort of a statement warning the president not to try to reduce troop levels in South Korea unless there is a national security imperative.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, who wrote the sense of the Senate resolution, said he is concerned Trump might try to limit troop numbers on the Korean peninsula, which he warned would play right into China’s desires to have an unchallenged presence in the region.
“The Chinese have probably been coaching Kim Jong Un to seek that as part of the nuclear negotiation goals,” he told ABC.
Last month, Trump ordered the Pentagon to issue options for reducing the American presence in South Korea, despite his administration’s assurances that they were not a bargaining chip in the Kim talks.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said those kinds of comments indicate that it might be time to consider tying the president’s hands when it comes to defense on the peninsula.
“I generally wouldn’t be open to that, but I might be now,” he told ABC, although he added that the Senate should hold a hearing on the Murphy/Duckworth proposition before any votes are contemplated.
As we see, the American government really isn’t all that interested in a peace scenario being established on the Korean peninsula, and, one might well argue, anywhere else, for that matter. Consider Syria, when Trump announced he wanted to pull US troops out of Syria and to bring our boys home. What happened? Well, the military’s top brass and advisers raised a stink about it and insisted that the troops stay.
And, conveniently, Assad just happened to decide at that time to launch a gas attack on his own citizens, the perfect excuse to maintain a military presence in Syria, and maybe even to escalate US participation in the region by getting some allies together to blow some stuff up. The same sort of scenario, after a fashion, appears to be going on here.
Trump says he wants to bring America’s finest home and then the government raises a stink about it and tries to find a way to force Trump to not interfere with the war situation in Korea. That might ruin other US interests in the region, together with reducing the apparent budget requirements for the Pentagon, as well as damage any good pretexts for attempting some sort of regime change operation in North Korea, after the Libya model, of course. Apparently, the war mongering mentality isn’t something limited to John Bolton or Mad Dog Mattis, but looks to be shared by the rest of the Federal government as well.
However, that such measures would actually be of any use isn’t really all that certain, given that all Trump would have to do is to assign some national security priority to the denuclearization process in North Korea, indicating that such a withdrawal is therefore necessary for America’s security against a nuclear North Korea. Afterall, Trump’s tariffs regimes against China, the EU, the other members of NAFTA, and most of the rest of the planet, are all in the name of national security. So, all Trump really needs to do is utter those words, and his will is carried out, even if the US congress isn’t too excited that Trump happens to be the Commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, maybe with some emphasis on that chief part.

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