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Congressman John Conyers

Representing the 13th District of Michigan


November 7, 2017
Press Release
Conyers’ Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Reaffirms Congress’s Constitutional Power Over A First Strike On North Korea

Washington, D.C. – Korean War veteran Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), issued a bipartisan joint statement with fellow veterans Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Brown (D-MD), Rep. Rush (D-IL), Rep. Jones (R-NC), Rep. Panetta (D-CA), Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ), Rep. Thompson (D-CA), Del. Sablan (D-Mariana Islands), Rep. Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Scott (D-VA), Rep. Moulton (D-MA) on a potential ground invasion in North Korea. The statement follows a CRS report and a letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff addressing questions raised by Reps. Lieu and Gallego about the Pentagon’s plan for military action against North Korea.

In the statement, the Members wrote:

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff has now confirmed that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is through a ground invasion. That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.

As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for U.S. troops and our allies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea. Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for U.S. troops and U.S. civilians in South Korea. It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk. The Joint Chiefs said they have no reason to believe North Korea would resist using their stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action.

A nonpartisan report by the Congressional Research Service indicates conflict on the peninsula could impact as many as 25 million people on either side of the border, including more than 100,000 U.S. citizens. We must pursue every other option before even considering a massive ground invasion. The Administration has also failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over. We’re still engaged in the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan with no end in sight.

With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling. The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.

The Joint Chiefs’ assessment and the CRS report clearly demonstrate that every diplomatic and economic option must be exhausted before military options are considered. If President Trump does intend to pursue a military option against North Korea, he must come to Congress as required by our Constitution. The stakes are too high and the potential outcome too grave for President Trump to violate his constitutional duty to come to Congress to authorize and oversee use of force.”

In a video statement, Conyers also said, “We want to send a clear message to President Trump as he embarks for his Asia trip:  to the extent that you can, sir, please refrain from any further escalation.  We appreciate Secretary Tillerson pursuing a diplomatic approach, and Secretary Mattis saying that war in Korea would be catastrophic. Please listen to them and spend your time in Asia seeking a peaceful resolution to this dispute.” Watch here.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s travel to Asia, Conyers hosted a press conference with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to reaffirm Congress’s Constitutional power over approving a first strike against North Korea. Watch here.

In October 2017, Congressman Conyers and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) led more than 60 members of Congress in introducing new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure that President Donald Trump cannot attack North Korea without the approval of Congress by prohibiting any expenditure of funds for such a strike. The No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act of 2017 restricts funds available to the Department of Defense or to any other federal department or agency from being used to launch a military strike against North Korea without the prior approval of Congress or the imperative to respond to an attack against the United States or its allies. The bipartisan House version of the legislation, H.R. 4140, is co-led by Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has 61 co-sponsors. 

In August 2017, Conyers led more than 60 Members of Congress in sending  an urgent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to express “profound concern” over “irresponsible and dangerous” statements made by President Trump regarding North Korea and to urge Tillerson to do everything in his power “to ensure that President Trump and other Administration officials understand the importance of speaking and acting with the utmost caution and restraint on this delicate issue.”

In May 2017, Conyers led a letter signed by 64 Democratic Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, to rebuke President Trump’s inconsistent and dangerous statements regarding U.S. policy towards North Korea, notify him that military strikes without Congressional approval would violate the Constitution, and urge him to instead adhere to the diplomatic approach recently articulated by his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The 64 signers represented the 64 years since the Armistice Agreement was signed to end hostilities in the Korean War.