State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

The panic that ensued in Hawaii this past weekend reveals that it is high time for President Trump to initiate dialogue with Pyongyang.

On Saturday morning, an emergency missile alert went out to residents in Hawaii after an employee at EMA “pushed the wrong button” during a routine drill run after a shift change. It took the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency 38 minutes after its original warning “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL” to confirm that the first alert was a false alarm.

It would take only an estimated 20 minutes for a missile launched from North Korea to reach Hawaii, giving residents a mere 12 minutes to find shelter after an alert, according to state officials.

Last year, in response to rising tensions between the US and North Korea, Hawaii has staged monthly air-raid drills and reinstated the use of attack-warning sirens that had last been in use in the 1980s.

President Trump On The False Alarm

In response to the false alarm, President Trump said on Sunday, Jan 14, at his West Palm golf club: “Well, that was a state thing. But we’re going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility. But we’re going to get involved. Their attitude and their — what they want to do, I think it’s terrific. They took responsibility. They made a mistake.”

Continuing Trump said, “We hope it won’t happen again. But part of it is that people are on edge, but maybe, eventually, we’ll solve the problem so they won’t have to be so on edge.”

But President Trump’s vague comments about “solv[ing] the problem” have been met with skepticism in the past. The White House’s repeated stance on North Korea has been “pursuing the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner,” while North Korea has persistently stated that denuclearization was not on the table.

In the first talks between North and South Korea in over two years this Tuesday, Jan 16, Pyongyang’s chief negotiator Ri Son Gwon responded to South Korea’s proposed talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula by stating: “This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing.”

“All our weapons,” Ri said at the talks, “including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, and ballistic missiles, are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia.”

Rex Tillerson Says the US Is Ready For Talks With Pyongyang Without Preconditions

The White House has stated that talks with North Korea are not possible as long as it continues its nuclear program, but last week at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US is ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions.

“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said, “and we can talk about the weather if you want. Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table if that’s what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a roadmap of what we might be willing to work towards.”

But it is unclear whether Tillerson’s remarks represent the views of President Trump, whom Tillerson seems to have been at odds with in the past. In October of last year, Trump tweeted “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…”

“…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!,” the President continued in the following tweet.

The White House, in response to Tillerson’s comments, has said “the President’s views on North Korea have not changed.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard On The False Alarm

Hawaiian Representative Tulsi Gabbard said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the false alarm incident was “unacceptable” and revealed a need for direct talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Representative Gabbard stated that in the past she had called on Trump “to directly negotiate with North Korea, to sit across the table from Kim Jong Un, work out the differences, so that we can build a pathway towards denuclearization to remove this threat.”

“What makes me angry is, yes, that this false alarm went out, and we have to fix that in Hawaii,” Gabbar continued. “But, really, we have got to get to the underlying issue here of, why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today? And what is this president doing urgently to eliminate that threat?”

According to both Tillerson and Gabbar, the White House should initiate dialogue with Pyongyang “without preconditions” in order to eliminate the nuclear threat of North Korea.

Trump has said he is open to talks with Pyongyang at “the appropriate time,” but the juvenile squabbles between the two leaders in the meantime are benefiting nobody. What is needed now is an open dialogue between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the White House and Pyongyang, that doesn’t involve the unnecessary name-calling or aggression that has pervaded their past correspondences.

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Yeji-Jesse Lee

Yeji is covering the White House.

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