WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s top national security advisers stressed efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis to Congress on Wednesday, staying far from Trump’s tough talk of potential “fire and fury” military responses to Pyongyang’s missile programme.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford held classified briefings on North Korea and Afghanistan for the entire House of Representatives and Senate.
Lawmakers said the officials discussed efforts including consultations with allies, sanctions, pushing for action at the United Nations and military options.
But they said the briefings’ tone was sharply different from some of Trump’s recent public statements. After recent missile launches and nuclear tests by North Korea, the president has vowed to stop the weapons programme and said he would unleash “fire and fury” if Pyongyang threatened U.S. territory.
Mattis also warned of a “massive” military response if the United States or its allies were threatened.
“Each of them was very professional, very measured in what they were saying, and understand the stakes that are in play here. So there’s nothing over-the-top, no over-the-top rhetoric, just a layout of where they are in trying to deal with this issue,” Senator Bob Corker, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.
Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said after the briefing it was clear that the administration would like to negotiate an agreement with North Korea.
“There was really no bluster whatsoever,” Engel said.
Members of Congress from both parties called for stricter sanctions against North Korea, and said the United States should seek to work closely with allies like South Korea, push China to do more and see action at the United Nations.
“The best strategy would be deploying sanctions... sustained financial pressure in which we do not let up on those financial institutions that are assisting North Korea,” said Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House committee, who just returned from a trip to South Korea.
Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said there had been more members of the House at the briefing than he could remember at similar sessions.
“There was a tremendous amount of interest,” he said.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker