Amid the uncertain fate of Kim Jong Un and following illegal Trump strike against Iran, legislation would prevent unauthorized U.S. military action against North Korea


Washington (April 28, 2020) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) announced the introduction of legislation that bars President Donald Trump from waging an unauthorized armed conflict against North Korea. The introduction of the No Unconstitutional War with North Korea Act of 2020 comes on the heels of conflicting press reports regarding the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the possibility of a contested succession of power. President Trump sent conflicted messages in his press conference yesterday saying he “has a very good idea” about the status of Kim Jong Un, only to say later on that “nobody knows where he is.” The No Unconstitutional War with North Korea Act prohibits making funds available to the U.S. Department of Defense or to any other federal department or agency to be used to engage militarily with North Korea without the prior approval of Congress or in response to an armed attack against the United States.


Also co-sponsoring the legislation are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).


“While developments inside North Korea are unclear, the United States must be absolutely clear in signaling that we do not seek war with Pyongyang, regardless of who heads the country,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “President Trump must not be tempted to return to the charged rhetoric of ‘fire and fury,’ which would only move us away from our security interests of denuclearization and ending conflict on the peninsula. Unauthorized, reckless military action in North Korea would put the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. armed service members and millions of our South Korean allies at great risk. I am proud to once again partner with Representative Khanna to avert a catastrophic war.”


“The president must come to Congress before starting a war, period,” said Rep. Khanna. “Between the uncertainty surrounding Kim Jung Un’s health and the reports of ‘contingency plans’ in place if there were to be a change in leadership, American foreign policy must prioritize a diplomatic approach toward achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula. The current state of world affairs only underlies the importance of Congress reclaiming its constitutional authority over matter of war and pace. I’m proud to partner again with Senator Markey on this effort to prevent an unconstitutional war in North Korea.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


The Markey-Khanna bill follows their similar bicameral effort in the 115th Congress, the No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act, which was introduced after tensions between the United States and North Korea raised the prospect of war. Since June 2018 Singapore Summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, direct talks have stalled and Kim previewed that he may resume longer-range ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2020. 


The legislation is endorsed by Win Without War, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Women Cross DMZ, Peace Action, the Ploughshares Fund, and Foreign Policy for America.


“We are facing tremendous uncertainty in North Korea – a potential leadership crisis and the start of a pandemic that the country is ill-equipped to handle. The only engagement that makes sense is diplomacy, to restart negotiations and provide direly-needed assistance to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Erica Fein, advocacy director, Win Without War. “Given these uncertain times, and President Trump’s long history of erratic behavior, it is only wise for Senator Markey and Representative Khanna to reintroduce legislation that reinforces that Congress, not the president, has the power to start, and ultimately fund, a war.”


“For too long, members of Congress have ceded their power over war decisions to the administration. This bill would rightly put the solemn choice over what would be a catastrophic war with North Korea back where the nation’s founders intended—with Congress,” said Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation.


“This year marks 70 years of the unresolved Korean War, and the risk of renewed military conflict remains high. Congress has the constitutionally-mandated power to prevent unilateral and unauthorized strikes, and this bill is a critical step toward exercising that power,” said Christine Ahn, Founder and Executive Director, Women Cross DMZ. “It is crucial that Members co-sponsor this legislation in order to demonstrate their commitment to de-escalating and working toward peace.”


“During the pandemonium of this pandemic we need more world cooperation and less conflict.  Thankfully, this legislation, led by national security leaders, Senator Markey and Representative Khanna, echoes taxpayers' desire for the more economical solution to our disagreements with North Korea: dialogue over destruction,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Policy Director, Peace Action. “While photo ops and summits represent initial steps, the Trump administration needs to conduct deep diplomacy with North Korea and the region. Additionally, this bill builds on the bipartisan legislation Congress passed on Yemen and Iran reminding the Executive Branch that the Constitution clearly states that only Congress declares war.”


“If President Trump handles North Korea in the same reckless way he is attempting to address COVID-19, we are in big trouble. We must ensure that the President cannot start a war or launch a nuclear first strike without the explicit authorization of Congress. The Constitution requires no less,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, the Ploughshares Fund.


“With more uncertainty on the Korean peninsula than ever before, Congress must act to prevent a reckless decision that could endanger millions of lives,” said said Cassandra Varanka, Advocacy Director, Foreign Policy for America. “This bill makes clear that diplomacy is the only way forward to address the North Korean nuclear program. FP4A thanks Senator Markey and Rep. Khanna for prioritizing diplomacy and reasserting congressional war making authority with this important bill.”