Roe, who served in the Army Medical Corps in South Korea in 1973-74, first at Camp Casey, 11 miles from the demilitarized zone separating the north and south, then at an evacuation hospital near Seoul, recommended diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions to quell the threats of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader.
“Hopefully, this country can get China to bring diplomatic pressure and economic pressure,” he said, after meeting with Starbucks employees about veterans’ issues. “The ideal lane is not military. There is no military solution. A military solution is a disaster once you’ve allowed someone to get nuclear weapons, so you would hope that the regime could be taken down from the inside.”
Roe criticized Kim’s efforts to bolster his country’s military might, saying “I cannot explain why you would be spending the amount of money they’re spending when you’ve got people starving in the country.”
In the past two years, North Korea has ramped up tests of ballistic missiles and nuclear devices, and claims to be close to combining the two for the ability to strike nearly anywhere on the globe with an explosive force 10 times more damaging than the bomb dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II.
In August, after the isolated country announced it had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit on an intercontinental missile, President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” hinting at a military strike to neutralize the nuclear threat on the peninsula.
Later that month, after the test firing of a missile over Japan, the president said “all options are on the table,” another reference to the potential for military action.
Two weeks ago, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached out to Pyongyang to attempt a diplomatic solution to the conflict, Trump tweeted Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a name used by the president to belittle North Korea’s leader.
As the situation escalated, and a North Korean diplomat said the country considered Trump’s tweets a declaration of war, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., warned the president’s threats could set the nation “on the path to World War III” in an interview with the New York Times.
Asked last week about the war of words between the president and Corker, his colleague in the Senate, Roe called the online exchanges between the two men unfortunate, and said he wished they would put their phones up.
On Tuesday, Roe said Trump’s statements to North Korea were to deter the nation from striking at its neighbors.
“The problem is you have an unstable regime, and they have to understand there are consequences for their actions,” the representative said. “The president has to be strong and make that regime understand there are terrible consequences if you do anything.”