Gardner Holds Hearing on North Korea Policy

“Now is the time to enact a comprehensive strategy to quell North Korea’s aggression”

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Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, held a hearing today entitled ‘Assessing the North Korea Threat and U.S. Policy: Strategic Patience or Effective Deterrence?’

In his opening remarks, Senator Gardner emphasized the imminent threat posed by the rogue regime in Pyongyang as well as the regime’s history of violations of international laws and norms. Senator Gardner also paid particular attention to the regime’s horrendous record on human rights, touching on the vast network of political prison camps where hundreds of thousands are held, tortured, and maimed.

Gardner spoke of the need for a new policy towards North Korea, and outlined the parameters of the sweeping new sanctions legislation he introduced along with Senator Risch (R-ID) and Senator Rubio (R-FL).

More details and video of the hearing are available on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website.


Let me welcome you all to the fourth hearing for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy in the 114th Congress. Thanks again to Senator Cardin for your work and cooperation in holding this important hearing today.

This hearing is intended to address what in many ways has been a forgotten threat – the threat of North Korea. While our nation’s attention is rightly focused on the Middle East, the North Korean threat has grown exponentially, while there seems to be a falling asleep, so to speak, at the switch when it comes to North Korea.

According to experts, North Korea may already have as many as 20 nuclear warheads and may have as many as 100 within the next five years.  The regime has already tested nuclear weapons on three separate occasions: in 2006, 2009, and 2013, in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

According to the Director of National Intelligence’s 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment, “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the United States and to the security environment in East Asia.” In April of this year, Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said that North Korea has developed the ability to launch a nuclear payload on its very own KN-08 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile that is capable of reaching the United States. As Admiral Gortney stated, “Pyongyang has the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.”

Besides the conventional military threats, North Korean cyber capabilities are growing, as evidenced by North Korea’s attack on South Korean financial and communication systems in March of 2013 and the Sony hack of earlier this year. Earlier this month, the Center for International and Strategic Studies, led by Dr. Victor Cha who is here with us today, produced a great study that described North Korea’s dangerous new cyber capabilities. The report stated: “North Korea is emerging as a significant actor in cyberspace with both its military and clandestine organizations gaining the ability to conduct cyber operations.”

North Korea’s regime is also responsible for horrific human rights abuses. North Korea maintains a vast network of political prison camps, where as many as 200,000 men, women, and children are confined to atrocious living conditions, and are tortured, maimed, and killed. The landmark 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea found, and I quote, “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” that in the Commission’s view “entailed crimes against humanity.”

Yet efforts to counter these destabilizing North Korean policies and the imminent threat the Kim Jong Un regime poses to the world have yet to be completely dealt with. The policy of “strategic patience,” in my view, has been a strategic failure.

This past August, I traveled to the region and met with top leaders in Japan and South Korea, including President Park who will be visiting Washington next week. In these meetings I heard a tremendous amount of concern regarding the growing North Korean threat and the direction of U.S. policy. So if this strategic policy will not change behavior, then I believe Congress needs to change the behavior.

Yesterday, I introduced a bill with several of my colleagues on this Committee called the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2015, which seeks to take decisive new action to counter the North Korean threat.  This legislation corrects our policy and mandates broad new sanctions against individuals involved in North Korea’s nuclear program and proliferation activities, as well as against officials involved in the regime’s continued human rights abuses and destabilizing cyber activities. It would also codify two executive orders released in 2015 authorizing sanctions against entities undermining U.S. national and economic security in cyberspace.

It’s time to immediately reverse course and begin applying more pressure to the North Korean regime through additional financial sanctions, increased military engagement with our allies in the region, and more assertive diplomacy with China, which wields significant control over the fate of the region.

And we must remember that more than 20 years ago, North Korea already pledged to dismantle its nuclear program, yet we now see a regime that has no respect for international agreements or international norms.  The United States should never engage in negotiations with Pyongyang without imposing strict pre-conditions that North Korea take immediate steps to halt its nuclear program, cease all military provocations, and make credible steps to respecting the human rights of its own people.

If the United States does not pursue increased actions against North Korea now, we could face much greater and immensely more consequential challenges in the future. Now is the time to enact a comprehensive strategy to quell North Korea’s aggression, and give our allies in the region a reason to trust us and our enemies a reason to fear us.

With that, Senator Cardin I appreciate you being here today and I turn to you for your comments.


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 Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.


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