January 31, 2017

Cardin Statement at North Korea Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at Tuesday’s hearing, “Confronting the North Korea Threat: Reassessing Policy Options”:

“It is clear that North Korea, according to the Statement of their leader, is in the final stages of testing, launching the intercontinental ballistic missile.

“If North Korea is successful in launching an ICBM, it would be well on its way of joining China and Russia as the only countries that can directly target the United States with a nuclear weapon. 

“I noticed that President Trump said – ‘it won’t happen.’ Does that mean we have drawn a red line? We know the consequences of drawing red lines. The Chairman pointed out that we may have to consider military options. I understand that. But I am concerned about the role of our foreign policy when the President of the United States announces policies without having it properly vetted by the relevant agencies and the experts, recognizing the adverse consequences to some of his statements. And whether what he does in fact is legal.

“We saw that this past weekend, when his executive order dealing with immigration and dealing with our refugee program. I’ve already commented on that, about how reckless and dangerous I think that executive order was. And I don’t believe it’s constitutional or legal. As we saw with Ms. Yates’ comments. And of course, after she made her comments she was readily fired by the President of the United States, not leaving us any confirmed person in the Justice Department to exercise that important responsibility. 

“We’ve tried isolation in the past and it hasn’t worked. We need to be engaged with other countries.   And that’s particularly true with North Korea. When we look at North Korea’s capacity today, the amount of nuclear material it has - it has nuclear material that could produce hundreds of nuclear weapons - and now they are working on a delivery system that could threaten the continental United States. Our past policies, under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, have not been successful in allowing us to prevent them from pursuing this nuclear objective.

“But it’s clear to me that the United States alone has little chance of preventing North Korea from achieving its stated objective, and that we need to work with other countries. And first and foremost, is our reliance on the Republic of Korea and Japan, and I’m glad that Secretary Mattis in his first foreign trip is visiting our allies in that region. I think that’s a very important statement and something that we need to work with our allies.

“So let me just talk briefly on underlying assumptions on North Korea and whether we can change those equations. First and foremost, will China ever join us in effectively preventing North Korea from having the economic benefits that we’ve tried to prevent through imposition of sanctions? Will they stop their importing of Korean coal? That is an area that we have to change the equation. Can we convince China that it’s in their security interest for a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, and how do we change that equation so that they can work effectively with us?

“We need to know whether North Korea wants and needs to rejoin the international community. Many of us think that North Korea has made the assumption that they can continue to go down this road. We have to change that equation so that North Korea has incentives to give up its nuclear program. And is there still time on our side? I think we are concerned that time is working against us as North Korea continues these activities. We also need to know that if North Korea enters into an agreement that they’ll live up to it. The 1994 framework agreement had many problems. It didn’t limit North Korea’s stockpile of fissile material for an 8 year period but we have to see whether we can get agreements that in fact can be carried out.

“So Mr. Chairman, I want to strengthen our alliances with our partners, we need leadership at the United Nations on tougher sanctions, we need robust and rigorous actions to fully implement and enforce HR-757. I want to thank Senator Gardner and Senator Menendez for their leadership on that, we now need to make sure that it’s enforced. We need to make sure the U.N. sanctions are enforced and we have to find out when it is the time for sustained diplomatic efforts because we always prefer to solve these problems with diplomacy rather than through force.

“Lastly, North Korea has many problems in addition to its nuclear program. It’s a country that ranks at the bottom of the world in its respect for human rights and the development of its own people. We need to be mindful that with every program in North Korea, it also needs to be focused on the people of North Korea which gives us the greatest chance for a stable regime someday for the people of North Korea.”

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