(Senate - September 14, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 149 (Thursday, September 14, 2017)]
[Pages S5739-S5741]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              NORTH KOREA

  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I wish to address one of the most 
pressing and most challenging national security issues facing our 
Nation: North Korea's growing nuclear and ballistic missile programs 
and its continued belligerent behavior.
  North Korea has developed an active nuclear weapons program and is 
making considerable progress in developing nuclear-capable ballistic 
missiles that can reach our allies and partners in the region, 
including South Korea and Japan, U.S. territories like Guam, and, 
likely, the continental United States as well.
  The time for illusions about North Korea's programs, or wishful 
thinking about our policy options, is past.
  With each passing day, North Korea's continued defiance of the 
international community makes it clear that the Trump administration's 
policy of maximum pressure is yielding minimal results.
  If the United States continues on the path laid out by President 
Trump, there are only two realistic outcomes, both bad: North Korea 
becomes a nuclear power or a large-scale conventional war breaks out on 
the Korean Peninsula that would result in the loss of hundreds of 
thousands and possibly millions of lives.
  If our policy options leave us with only capitulation or war as 
possible outcomes, those policies are deeply flawed. There should be a 
lot of space between war and capitulation on the Korean Peninsula.
  I strongly believe that we must therefore adjust our strategy to fill 
that space with an all-out ``diplomatic surge,'' one that results in 
serious, hard constraints on North Korea's nuclear ambitions and a more 
peaceful, stable, and prosperous Northeast Asia for all.
  The initial objective of this surge would be to begin a diplomatic 
process, with Pyongyang first verifiably halting

[[Page S5740]]

their nuclear and ballistic missile testing and the United States and 
our allies taking steps to deescalate the current tensions on the 
Korean Peninsula.
  We have not arrived at the current situation with North Korea 
overnight. Where we are today is an outgrowth of two decades of steady 
progress by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs. The tense 
situation on the Korean Peninsula highlights the failure of the 
international community and multiple administrations, Republican and 
Democratic alike, to end North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and 
to promote greater security and stability in the region.
  This year alone, North Korea has conducted at least a dozen ballistic 
missile tests, including ICBM tests, and now a nuclear test of what is 
likely a thermonuclear weapon.
  We may not like this reality, but we must face the fact that North 
Korea already has a small but nonetheless operational nuclear arsenal.
  At this critical moment, the President, instead of providing 
responsible leadership, has engaged in bluster and provocative 
statements about nuclear war with North Korea. He continues to show he 
lacks the temperament and judgment to deal with this serious crisis. He 
continues to increase tensions rather than reduce them and to issue 
threats when it is far from clear he is willing to back them up.
  President Trump's dangerous rhetoric has painted the United States 
into a corner.
  The President has zig-zagged from one extreme to the other, as the 
Washington Post recently put it, veering between bellicose tweets aimed 
at North Korea, threats to our allies and partners, efforts to flatter 
Beijing, offers of diplomacy, and then strident rejections of it at the 
same time. He has created an environment of uncertainty amongst our 
allies and partners, emboldened our adversaries, and confused and 
deeply concerned the American people about their safety.
  I therefore feel a solemn responsibility as the ranking member of the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee to put forward an approach to North 
Korea that I believe represents the type of responsible bipartisan 
leadership the world has come to expect from the United States.
  When the United States leads with our values and interests at the 
fore, others follow, but when we abdicate or purposefully cause doubt, 
well, that kind of uncertainty makes the world less safe.
  Therefore, the United States should put its full weight into creating 
and executing a comprehensive policy that includes the immediate 
imposition of additional sanctions, active engagement with our allies, 
vigorous support for human rights and the pursuit of principled 
multilateral measures to shape the regional environment.
  Most urgently, we should begin immediate and direct diplomatic 
engagement with Pyongyang, guided by strategic clarity, to curtail 
North Korea's nuclear ambitions, protect our allies, and bring 
stability to the Korean Peninsula.
  Underlying our current North Korea policy--or lack thereof--are a 
series of assumptions, which I believe must be reconsidered in light of 
our decades-long failure to achieve our strategic objectives.
  First, will China, ever really ``carry our water'' on economic 
  My assessment is China prioritizes its own interests in maintaining 
North Korea stability over denuclearization and will never place enough 
pressure on North Korea to force them to give up their nuclear program. 
That said, and as I will discuss further, China has a crucial role to 
play as a partner in this process, both imposing costs on North Korea 
up front and providing security and economic guarantees on the back 
end, but we should not expect that China will solve this issue for us.
  Second, do we still think that North Korea wants and needs to rejoin 
the international community?
  In other words, do they need us more than we need them? Based on its 
current actions, one would have to conclude no--and that holding out 
that possibility is not in fact an incentive for Pyongyang because it 
does not interest them.
  We should also be clear about North Korean intentions. Indeed, for 
all the talk about how irrational and unpredictable North Korea is, 
they have pursued these weapons--and developed tactics to evade 
international sanctions and pressure--with clarity and determination. 
They have not hid their intentions, the reasons why they believe they 
are seeking these weapons, or their vision for the peninsula.
  Even so, I believe Pyongyang will respond to incentives and to 
pressure, but we must get both the pressure and the disincentives right 
to be effective.
  Third, is time still on our side?
  The regime continues to move forward with its nuclear and missile 
programs, defying consistent predictions since the end of the Cold War 
that North Korea was on the verge of immediate collapse. All signs 
indicating that Kim Jung-Un is firmly in control and faces no serious 
challenges. He has even had members of his own family murdered to keep 
his iron grip on the country firm and in place. So while time has not 
run out, it is not on our side, either.
  Finally, are negotiations with North Korea pointless because they 
will always renege on their commitments?
  I recognize the history of numerous efforts to engage with North 
Korea that have ended in failure and acrimony, but it is also important 
to remember that while the 1994 framework agreement had many problems, 
it did limit and constrain North Korea's stockpile of plutonium for an 
8-year period.
  Yes, North Korea continued with a part of its nuclear programs in 
secret, but there is no question that, during this period, the United 
States and our allies were safer and more secure than they would have 
been given the alternatives, which were war or acquiesce to North 
Korea's nuclear program.
  While it is certainly possible that the agreed framework would have 
fallen apart regardless, it is also possible, if the agreement had been 
maintained, it would have provided options for bringing the North's 
nuclear ambitions to a more permanent end.
  So while the Agreed Framework was far from perfect, it does suggest 
there are pathways by which a diplomatic surge can succeed in 
constraining and binding North Korea and in creating a more stable 
security environment in the region.

  I want to be very clear--I have no illusions about North Korea or 
about the low chances of success for even the best strategy for dealing 
with this regime.
  Nevertheless, it is incumbent on those of us in Congress, as well as 
our colleagues in the executive branch, to think through a policy that 
gives us the best chance of success and to take the necessary steps to 
see if this approach might lead to a better outcome.
  So, what would a policy geared for success with North Korea look 
  First, we must immediately begin a sustained diplomatic effort with 
the goal of first constraining and then ultimately eliminating 
Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs. Working with China is 
critical to these efforts.
  We can't expect China to solve North Korea for us. However, that does 
not mean that there is no space to make common cause with Beijing to 
contain North Korean's nuclear and missile programs and thereby reduce 
tensions in East Asia, which would benefit our mutual national security 
  At the end of the day, China understands that it, too, benefits from 
a denuclearized peninsula and that increased military tensions in the 
region, let alone war, do not serve China's interests well. So we can 
work with China to assure that sanctions are fully implemented--
especially those which China has already signed up for at the United 
Nations but has been slow to bring into force, an immediate test being 
the unanimously passed Security Council sanctions just this week. We 
can encourage China to take necessary measures that can force Pyongyang 
back to the negotiating table.
  To make this strategy work, we must indicate to China and Russia that 
we are ready and willing to engage in negotiations with North Korea.
  As we turn the screws on North Korea and strengthen our alliances, we 
need to be open to wide-ranging talks. We should be willing to discuss 
measures to deescalate the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, ways to 
improve the lot of the downtrodden people of North Korea, and 
ultimately a pathway forward for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

[[Page S5741]]

  To begin this process, Pyongyang will first have to verifiably halt 
their nuclear and ballistic missile testing, and the United States and 
our allies must indicate a willingness to take steps to deescalate the 
current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
  China's assistance will be necessary not only in getting talks 
started but also in helping them reach a successful conclusion. Only 
China can provide North Korea with certain kinds of security guarantees 
which likely will be necessary to enhance Pyongyang's confidence that 
any agreement will be enduring.
  Second, it is worth emphasizing that an ``America Alone'' approach is 
not a formula for success in dealing with North Korea--or anything else 
for that matter. A complex threat like North Korea can't be 
successfully confronted without assistance from our allies and partners 
in the region--and any successful approach must start by strengthening 
our alliances and partnerships with Japan and Korea.
  The scope and range of partnership with our allies--starting with 
Japan and Korea--is both dynamic and comprehensive and has been 
critical for maintaining peace, stability, and economic prosperity 
throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
  This stability and prosperity has also made the United States more 
secure and more prosperous. It is why the United States, after the 
devastation of the Second World War and the Korean war, built 
partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and other Asian nations. These 
actions turned the region into one of the greatest foreign policy 
success stories of the past 70 years. Any successful policy toward 
North Korea must be built on this foundation and recognize that our 
strategic alliances combine not just military but also diplomatic and 
economic elements.
  The election of Moon Jae-in as President of South Korea and our 
partnership with Prime Minister Abe in Japan have created new 
opportunities to reconsider and recalibrate our approach and encourage 
us to align and coordinate our approach with that of our regional 
allies. Nations such as Australia, Singapore, and our other ASEAN 
partners also have important roles to play.
  The United States has worked diligently for the past several years, 
starting under the Obama administration, to strengthen our alliances 
and partnerships in the region by enhancing our defense and deterrence 
capabilities in light of emerging North Korean threats. This has 
included missile defense, extended deterrence, counterprovocation 
planning, and a suite of other capabilities relevant to the new 
security environment.
  We must continue and deepen these defense efforts to assure that we 
can stay ahead of North Korean threats, to provide leverage for 
diplomacy, and to maintain an insurance policy for the sort of 
``containment'' that will be necessary should diplomacy fail.
  Third, the United States has an important opportunity to set the 
broader regional context for peace and stability on the Korean 
Peninsula by engaging in forward-leaning, principled, multilateral 
diplomatic engagement.
  Over the years, there have been numerous proposals for multilateral 
architecture in Northeast Asia proposed by the nations of the region, 
as well as by the United States.
  While there is ample room for discussion and debate over which model 
might be best, it is clear we need a forum to draw the nations of 
Northeast Asia together to engage in confidence-building measures and 
to address outstanding diplomatic, security, and political issues so 
that the right context exists for a stable Korean Peninsula. When 
President Trump travels to Asia this November, he has an important 
opportunity to move the multilateral architecture debate forward as a 
necessary supporting element of a broader North Korea strategy.
  Fourth and finally, the administration must seek to fully exercise 
our economic leverage, not incrementally but robustly and to the 
maximum extent feasible, and should immediately impose additional 
economic sanctions on Pyongyang.
  Secondary sanctions imposed upon firms that trade with North Korea, 
along with other targeted sectoral and financial measures through the 
UN Security Council, are essential to make it more difficult for the 
Kim Jong Un regime to support its prohibited nuclear and missile 
programs, including the financing that fuels its illegal activities.
  The administration must also rigorously implement and enforce the 
North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enforcement Act of 2016, the relevant 
sections of the recently passed Countering America's Adversaries 
Through Sanctions Act and UNSC resolutions 2270 and 2321 on North 
  I know several of our colleagues, including Senators Gardner, Markey, 
Toomey and Van Hollen, also have legislation to impose new and 
additional sanctions.
  Critically, while many past efforts have been targeted at imposing 
costs on North Korea by curtailing trade leaving North Korea, to be 
truly effective a sanctions regime must have as its primary purpose 
halting the flow of goods, finances, and material into North Korea. We 
know that when oil shipments have been curtailed in the past or when we 
threaten the ability of North Korea to use the international financial 
system to bring its ill-gotten funds home, we have gotten Pyongyang's 
  We will get their attention again if we cut off North Korean elites' 
ability to continue to enjoy luxury goods. By cutting off access to 
these goods, through existing sanctions that are often not seriously 
enforced, we will provide an opportunity to focus minds in Pyongyang.
  China plays a key role in bringing this sort of pressure to bear on 
North Korea, but so do others. Russia, for example, houses some 30,000 
North Korean slave laborers, a key source of regime income, and has 
also supplied North Korea with oil and aviation fuel in the past, 
sometimes illicitly. Other partners, including Singapore, have been key 
hubs for North Korean activity. Robust implementation of current 
sanctions to address these activities is crucial across all members of 
the international community.
  What I have laid out today are lofty goals to be sure, but we should 
stand up and try to reach them. Let's try to stop North Korea through 
diplomacy while watching to make sure North Korea will not cheat during 
negotiations or on any final agreement, as they have in the past.
  While imperfect in the short term, a freeze on North Korea's nuclear 
and missile program serves our national security interests. If nothing 
is done to slow North Korea down, its nuclear program and delivery 
systems will continue to grow, imperiling our allies and the American 
people. Diplomatic engagement that allows us to constrain and 
eventually reverse North Korea's nuclear ambitions may not be 
``perfect'' security, but it is enhanced security and by far the better 
option available.
  Time is no longer on our side, but the clock hasn't run out yet. The 
United States and the international community have an opportunity to 
test the proposition of what a robust diplomatic surge to North Korea's 
aggression might look like. It is critical that we take the opportunity