North Korea situation still evolving

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A lot can change from week to week, so I wanted to share an update on the situation with North Korea. Tensions have escalated further since my recent column outlining the challenges this threat poses. While situations of this nature can be very alarming due to near constant cable news coverage, I want to reassure my fellow Alabamians that I don’t believe a conflict with North Korea is inevitable.

I maintain that the best way to deal with the threat is through strong military deterrence, skilled diplomacy, and economic discipline. In fact, some progress has been made on all of these fronts recently. Militarily, the President has been direct and aggressive in making it clear that our armed forces are ready to defend the United States and its allies, including through our strategic missile defense systems. It is important to remember that the President is surrounded by very capable individuals like Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, and his new Chief of Staff General John Kelly, among others. These are experienced, battle-tested individuals, many of whom I’ve come to know throughout my tenure in Congress. I trust their judgment and I am confident they are offering wise counsel to the President.

Diplomatic efforts might not always be publicized, but it was Secretary Mattis who signaled this work is ongoing and promising. Secretary Mattis said, “My portfolio, my mission, my responsibility is to have military options should they be needed. However, right now, [with] Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley, you can see the American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, [and] it is gaining diplomatic results.”

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As for discipline, Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President signed into law H.R. 3364 imposing strict economic sanctions on hostile nations, including North Korea. Following suit, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to impose international penalties that would cost the North Korean regime as much as $1 billion in trade, which is a considerable amount for a country its size. Simply put, we have to get tough on other countries like China and Russia and make it clear that continuing to enable North Korea financially is unacceptable.

There’s no question the situation with North Korea is serious, and much is being done to make sure this threat is contained and neutralized.

There are a lot of pressing issues like this facing our country, and the month of August provides members of Congress valuable time away from Washington to have important conversations with our constituents. Alabama’s Second Congressional District stretches from Autauga and Elmore Counties to the North, to Barbour and Henry Counties to the East, to Houston, Geneva, and Covington Counties to the South, to Butler and Conecuh Counties in the West. I visit each county regularly while also taking a number of meetings in my district offices in Montgomery, Dothan, and Andalusia.

I find it is very helpful to connect to those I represent by hosting “Meet with Martha” events from time to time in various corners of the district. These are open house type events where we invite those who are interested to come visit with me one on one. There are two upcoming public meetings I wanted you to be aware of. Our first “Meet with Martha” event will take place on Thursday, August 17th at 2:00 p.m. at Chappy’s Deli on Perry Hill Road in Montgomery. The next will be held at the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, August 22 at 2:00 p.m. If you live in these areas, I hope you’ll consider stopping by to say hello. Stay up to date via my social media pages for more specifics about these events and more to come. I will keep you posted as the month unfolds.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.