State Politics

Risch, headed to Korea for Olympics, warns of possible war of ‘biblical proportions’

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, left, with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo on Wednesday outside the Idaho Senate chamber, where both spoke. They also addressed the Idaho House.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, left, with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo on Wednesday outside the Idaho Senate chamber, where both spoke. They also addressed the Idaho House. The Spokesman-Review

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is warning of a clash of “biblical proportions” between the United States and North Korea, but only if North Korea uses nuclear weapons first.

Risch startled security experts at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, when he discussed the threats.

“If this thing starts, it’s going to be probably one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization, but it is going to be very, very brief,” Risch told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. “The end of it is going to see mass casualties, the likes of which the planet has never seen. It will be of biblical proportions.”

Korea JoongAng Daily reported that experts at the three-day security conference were alarmed by Risch’s comments, which were seen as a veiled threat of war. After his remarks in Munich, Risch left for the airport and took no questions.

In Boise on Wednesday he stood by his assessment, after addressing the Idaho House along with Sen. Mike Crapo.

“Only if they pull the trigger first on a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Kim Jong Un needs to understand in the clearest of terms what is going to happen if he uses a nuclear weapon,” said Risch, who is in line to become the next chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Risch’s comments in Munich included a warning of “breathtaking” consequences, saying the United States has “no bloody nose policy” calling for a preventive military strike against North Korea.

“This president has at his fingertips the ability to dispense what he is going to dispense if the North Korean regime — if Kim Jong Un — continues down the path that he is going,” Risch said. “The president can do this quickly.”

Risch told The Spokesman-Review he was glad the Korean newspaper picked up on his remarks. “That wasn’t the first time I’ve given that message,” he said. “I’ve given it several times, and I want it repeated where Kim Jong Un will see it over and over.”

Korea JoongAng Daily is the English language version of the South Korean national daily newspaper JoongAng Ilbo. It’s one of three English-language daily newspapers in South Korea, along with The Korea Times and The Korea Herald. The Korea Herald also carried an account of Risch’s comments.

“There’s no one who wants conflict on the Korean peninsula,” Risch said Wednesday. “But that matter is entirely in the hands of one person, and that is Kim Jong Un. He can’t continue down the road he’s been pursuing.”

Risch named to Olympic delegation

Sen. Risch’s comments last weekend were still circulating Wednesday amid news he will be part of a delegation sent by President Donald Trump to the Olympic closing ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Risch will join Ivanka Trump, White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and three others as part of the presidential delegation to Sunday’s Olympic ceremonies, according to a news release from the senator’s office. In a written statement, Risch said the trip will be “a real privilege” and an honor for Idaho. “I also look forward to engaging with other national leaders in Pyeongchang.”

The delegation announcement came one day after reports that Vice President Mike Pence almost met with North Korean officials during his trip to the Olympics earlier this month. No similar meeting is planned this weekend, according to The Hill.

Risch is next in line to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2019, if Republicans maintain control of that chamber. In the news release, Ivanka Trump called him “a leading voice in foreign policy, and a wonderful addition to the group.”

Saturday was not the first time Risch has recently downplayed a “bloody nose” strike. U.S. officials have been pushing back against reports that the Trump administration may consider that level of attack, the Associated Press and Reuters report.

Nate Poppino