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Wednesday, August 09, 2017 4:50 pm

Young, Rokita like Trump's response

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Two federal lawmakers from Indiana expressed support Wednesday for President Donald Trump's vow to answer threats from North Korea "with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

In separate visits to Fort Wayne, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, said Trump's statement Tuesday was appropriate in the wake of reports that North Korea has the capability to put nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"To the extent that the president's remarks were calculated to create a measure of uncertainty among our enemies, then I think that can be a good thing. We want to keep our enemies off balance," Young said at a meeting with The Journal Gazette editorial board.

During a stop at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters to announce his candidacy for Indiana's other Senate seat, Rokita said about Trump's comments: "I think it's showing strong leadership. There are parts of the world that don't respect anything but strong leadership power, and I think the president exhibited that."

Rokita said Trump's "fire and fury" remark was "a strong contrast from the last eight years, where (President Barack Obama) pretended to have red lines drawn, and they turned out to be lines in the sand, and that's not respected by most of the world."

Rokita was referring to Obama's statements in 2012 that the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons in that nation's civil war would be a "red line" for prompting an unspecified response by the United States. After such weapons were deployed in 2013, Obama endorsed a Russia-brokered deal for Syria to surrender its chemical arsenal.

Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he doesn't think North Korea and the rest of the world consider Trump's pledge a red line. He did say the White House should conduct a classified briefing with members of Congress, similar to one in April, so that lawmakers "have clarity as to exactly what our strategy is moving forward. Because I've got some concerns that the capabilities of the North Koreans to harm Americans in a really devastating way is advancing faster than we anticipated."

Lawmakers could use that information to debate and vote on authorizing the use of military force against North Korea, Young said.

"Because the last thing you really want to do is involve our men and women in uniform in a fight like this and not have buy-in from the American people," he said. "I just think it's very important that Congress reassert our constitutional preogatives to declare war."

Rokita said congressional authorization for using military force against North Korea is "the responsible thing to do, and it asserts Congress' power and authority under the Constitution to declare war."

Young, a former Marine, said he favors bolstering diplomatic efforts with reminders of America's military might.

"If we don't make very clear that the military options are viable and accessible options for our leadership by putting more anti-missile resources in South Korea and on our ships, perhaps by even putting tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, then that undermines our diplomatic efforts. They need to be backed by military force," he said.

 bfrancisco@jg.net