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June 19, 2006

Gregoire worries about North Korea attack, wants troops out of Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 5:55 PM

Gov. Christine Gregoire says the threat of an attack by North Korea convinces her that U.S. troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible. Gregoire told reporters this morning that she talked over the weekend with the head of the Washington National Guard, Major Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, who convinced her that America's defenses are down because of the war effort.

Gregoire made her statement at the end of her regular media availability. Rather than take a last question from the press, she told reporters:

"I've wanted to respond to the very disturbing news this morning of North Korea and a three-stage rocket that literally could reach Seattle. And I wanted to do so by saying to people of the state of Washington, this reinforces me and the state that our security is going to have to be at the forefront of our thinking and our attention — that in fact out there remains considerable risk around the world. Not just to Washington state but to the entire country. And I think that also tells me very clearly, in talking to General Lowenberg, that it is very important that we, as timely as we possibly can, ensure that we are turning Iraq over to the Iraqi people and bringing our troops home so they are ready and prepared to do whatever is necessary to defend this country.

"I'm disturbed by what we're hearing. It is not the news that I think any of us should have to hear from North Korea and I want Washingtonians to understand the security risks to the nation and to us, but to understand that we've got to remain ever diligent and I ask every Washingtonian to be smart about their own personal security, and again any time they see something that raises a concern they get to law enforcement right away."

This was unusual for Gregoire. She hasn't spoken about Iraq before. She doesn't bring up international matters unless they connect pretty directly with the state. It was the news that Seattle could be reached by a North Korea rocket attack that prompted her comments, said communications director Holly Armstrong. The governor is alarmed enough about the North Korea news that she and Lowenberg talked about "tabletop exercises" for the guard "because the security and safety of Washingtonians has to be our No. 1 priority."

Gregoire said earlier this month that she would not order any Washington National Guard troops to the Mexico border as part of President Bush's immigration enforcement plan. She said that duty would be voluntary.

While Gregoire has stayed away from foreign policy, she has been asserting the state's international standing, saying Washington "is more like a small nation than a state." Apparently she now will make sure that the nation-state is well defended.

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