"Their [the ICC's] announcement that they would consider opening an investigation into, among other parties, US soldiers in Afghanistan is a threat to American sovereignty. And if they proceed with that, then the United States would consider those options that Ambassador [John] Bolton laid out today," Sanders said when asked whether the administration was shifting toward a more hard-lined stance on the ICC.
Bolton's announcement came after the court notified the US government that it was on the verge of making a decision about a potential investigation of US troops in Afghanistan, Sanders said.
President Donald Trump is committed to defending the national sovereignty of the United States and all of its security interests, and the US will use any means necessary to protect Americans and citizens of allied countries from unjust prosecution by the ICC, Sanders said.
When making his announcement earlier Monday, Bolton also said the United States would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country and launch legal proceedings against them if the court seeks to prosecute Americans or citizens of allied countries.
Bolton also said United States would take note of any countries that cooperate with ICC investigations into citizens of the United States or allied countries, and would remember that cooperation when allocating US foreign assistance and military aid, as well deciding on intelligence sharing.
The ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia requested last month that the court open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and Central Intelligence Agency officials in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004, particularly the abuse of detainees.
The ICC, which began its work in July 2002, includes 124 participating countries and is the only permanent international judicial structure that is competent to hear cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes.