Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on NKorea: ‘Great Nations Can Stumble into Armed Conflict’

By Melanie Arter | February 12, 2018 | 11:23 AM EST

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson (Screenshot)

( – Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper” that the rhetoric between the United States and North Korea has not been “helpful” and that “great nations can miscommunicate” and “misunderstand each other” and “stumble into armed conflicts.”

“I don't believe that the rhetoric between the two leaders has been helpful, and if you know history, you know that great nations can stumble into armed conflict. Great nations can miscommunicate, misunderstand each other, and, in an overheated environment, stumble into armed conflict, and that is my great concern here,” said Johnson.

Tapper asked if Johnson was concerned “with the fawning coverage” that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s sister is getting at the Winter Olympics in South Korea and “the fact that maybe she is actually managing to score a propaganda coup here, not just with some people in the press in this country, but also with people around the world, including the South Koreans?”

Johnson said, “Well, I find the overture from the North Koreans to South Korea to be interesting. It's an interesting dynamic in this whole issue, and you're correct. She has captured a lot of attention. Who knows? We will have to see. Again, my concern is that we not stumble into something that is not necessary,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that in an interview on Air Force Two on the return trip from the Winter Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence told the Post that the United States is willing to talk with the North Korean regime while continuing its pressure campaign against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:

Pence called it "maximum pressure and engagement at the same time." That’s an important change from the previous U.S. position, which was to build maximum pressure until Pyongyang made real concessions and only then to engage directly with the regime.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization," Pence said. "So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk."

When asked “what exact steps Pyongyang would have to take to get real sanctions relief,” Pence said, “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s why you have to have talks.”


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