Amidst Missile Test, Gardner Urges Administration to Prioritize North Korean Threat

Washington, DC  – On Friday, a day before North Korea launched a ballistic missile in violation of United Nations resolutions, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) sent a letter to President Trump urging his Administration to take a “determined and resolute U.S. policy toward North Korea,” highlighting Kim Jong Un’s regime’s illicit nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, human rights abuses, and malicious cyber activities. 


Upon learning of the latest missile test, Gardner made the following statement:


This latest missile test is another example of why the US policy toward North Korea should never be ‘strategic patience’, as it was during the Obama Administration. I urge the Trump Administration to immediately pursue a series of tough measures, to include additional sanctions designations and show-of-force military exercises with our allies in the region, to send a message to Kim Jong Un that we remain committed to deterring the North Korean threat. I also believe we must expedite the placement of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in South Korea to protect our allies and the tens of thousands of American troops in the region."

Gardner, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, authored the North Korea Sanctions Policy and Enhancement Act. Signed into law by President Obama in February of 2016. The legislation marked the first time Congress imposed stand-alone mandatory sanctions on North Korea.

The letter, sent Friday, reads in full:

Dear Mr. President: 


As you set your foreign policy and national defense agenda, I urge you to prioritize efforts to stop North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, human rights abuses, and malicious cyber activities. Pyongyang’s behavior threatens not only our allies in East Asia, but also U.S. national security and the American homeland. 


Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ first overseas trip was to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan, which showed an unwavering U.S. commitment to our alliances and our seriousness to deter Pyongyang. We commend him on this decision.


I urge you to take the following initial steps to set what we believe is the proper course for a determined and resolute U.S. policy toward North Korea in the Trump Administration.


First, we should fully enforce of existing U.S. and multilateral sanctions regarding North Korea – and as merited, imposition of additional sanctions. The North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (NKSPEA, P.L. 114-122), which passed by a vote of 98-0 in the Senate, mandates the imposition of U.S. sanctions on entities contributing to North Korean proliferation activities, human rights abuses, and malicious cyber activities.  The Congress expects the Administration to fully enforce this important legislation.


In order to exert the most effective economic leverage with Pyongyang, I urge you to employ all diplomatic tools to pressure the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – a nation with which North Korea conducts around 90% of its trade – to fully and unequivocally enforce its North Korea sanction commitments, in particular United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2270 and 2321. In addition, we encourage you to impose secondary U.S. sanctions on any PRC-based entities found in violation of the U.S. or UN sanctions regimes, or engaged in evasion of these sanctions.


Second, we must enhance our defense and deterrence posture in East Asia.  I urge you to work closely with our South Korean allies to expedite the placement of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korean territory.  We must not allow China’s unprecedented pressure campaign against the ROK to cancel the THAAD deployment succeed. 


In addition, we must continue to conduct regular American show-of-force exercises near North Korea, such as nuclear bomber overflights and an enhanced U.S. military presence. Pyongyang must know that any armed aggression against our allies will receive a swift and deadly rebuke.


Third, we must continue efforts to build a strong trilateral alliance between United States, ROK, and Japan. Strengthening this alliance can arguably provide the most effective policy tool to deter Pyongyang and to promote lasting peace and security in the region. We must continue to conduct regular high-level trilateral summits, as called for by NKSPEA. We should encourage more high-profile joint exercises with these strong allies, such the trilateral missile defense exercises conducted in June 2016. We must encourage both sides to fully implement and build on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), signed in November 2016.


Finally, we encourage you to shine a light on the human suffering of the North Korean people, both through the imposition of sanctions against human rights abusers as well as support for U.S. and international efforts to provide credible information and communication tools for the North Korean people.  Section 403 of NKSPEA authorized $10 million for freedom of information efforts with regard to North Korea and I urge you to fully implement this mandate.


Mr. President, we are at a critical juncture with regard to North Korea and its provocative behavior:  we require a swift, resolute, and well-coordinated policy to deter Pyongyang now and with time, to peacefully de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula. 


I hope you approach this request with utmost urgency and provide a timely and actionable response.



Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Budget Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

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