ICYMI: Gardner Chairs Hearing Focused on North Korea Policy

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, chaired a hearing on Tuesday titled, “Assessing the Maximum Pressure and Engagement Policy Toward North Korea.”Gardner recently introduced legislation to impose an embargo against North Korea and this hearing was intended to examine progress of the Trump Administration’s new policy toward North Korea and options to peacefully de-nuclearize the North Korean regime.


(Watch a video of Gardner’s opening remarks by clicking here or on the image above.)


Remarks as prepared for delivery:


Welcome all to today’s hearing. 


North Korea has emerged as the most urgent national security challenge for the U.S. states and our allies in East Asia.


Secretary Mattis has said North Korea is “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security.” Admiral Gortney, previously the Commander of U.S. Northern Command, stated that the Korean Peninsula is at its most unstable point since 1953, when the Armistice was signed.


Last year alone, North Korea conducted 2 nuclear tests and a staggering 24 ballistic missile launches. This year, Pyongyang already launched 17 missiles, including the July 4 successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that is reportedly capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii.


President Trump has said that the United States will not allow that to happen and I am encouraged by the President’s resolve.


Patience is not an option with the U.S. homeland in the nuclear shadow of Kim Jong Un.


Our North Korea policy of decades of bipartisan failure must turn to one of immediate bipartisan success - with pressure and global cooperation, resulting in the peaceful denuclearization of the regime.


As Vice-President Pence stated during his recent visit to South Korea:  “Since 1992, the United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  We hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means.  But all options are on the table.”


But time is not on our side.


I believe U.S. policy toward North Korea should be straightforward:  the United States will deploy every economic, diplomatic, and if necessary, military tools at our disposal to deter Pyongyang and to protect our allies.


However, the road to peacefully stopping Pyongyang undoubtedly lies through Beijing.


China is the only country that holds the diplomatic and economic leverage necessary to put the real squeeze on the North Korean regime. 


According to the South Korean state trade agency, China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea's trade, including virtually all of North Korea's exports.  From 2000-2015, trade volume between the two nations has climbed more than tenfold, rising from $488 million in 2000 to $5.4 billion in 2015.”


Beijing is the reason the regime acts so bold and with relatively few consequences.


China must now move beyond an articulation of concern and lay out a transparent path of focused pressure to denuclearize North Korea. A global power that borders this regime cannot simply throw up its hands and absolve themselves of responsibility.


The Administration is right to pursue a policy of “maximum pressure” toward North Korea and we have a robust toolbox already available to ramp up the sanctions track -- a track that has hardly been utilized to its fullest extent.


Last Congress, I led the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (NKSPEA), which passed the Senate by a vote of 96-0. This legislation was the first standalone legislation in Congress regarding North Korea to impose mandatory sanctions on the regime’s proliferation activities, human rights violations, and malicious cyber behavior.


According to recent analysis from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: “North Korea sanctions have more than doubled since the NKSPEA came into effect on February 18, 2016. Prior to that date, North Korea ranked eighth, behind Ukraine/Russia, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans, Syria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.”


Even with the 130% sanctions increase after NKPEA, North Korea is today still only the fifth most-sanctioned country by the United States. 


So while Congress has clearly moved the Obama Administration from inaction to some action, the Trump Administration has the opportunity to use these authorities to build maximum leverage with not only Pyongyang, but also with Beijing.


I am encouraged by the actions the Administration took last month to finally designate a Chinese financial institution.  But this should just be the beginning.


The Administration, with Congressional support, should now make clear to any entity doing business with North Korea that they will not be able to do business with the United States or have access to the U.S. financial system.


A report released last month by an independent organization, C4ADS, identified over 5,000 Chinese companies that are doing business with North Korea.  These Chinese companies are responsible for $7 billion in trade with North Korea.  Moreover, the C4ADS report found that only 10 of these companies control 30% of Chinese exports to North Korea in 2016.  One of these companies alone controlled nearly 10% of total imports from North Korea.  Some of these companies were found to have satellite offices in the United States.


According to recent disclosures, from 2009 to 2017, North Korea used Chinese banks to process at least $2.2 billion in transactions through the U.S. financial system. 


This should all stop now.  United States should not be afraid of a diplomatic confrontation with Beijing for simply enforcing existing U.S. law.  In fact, it should be more afraid of Congress if it does not.


As for any prospect of engagement, we should continue to let Beijing know in no uncertain terms that the United States will not negotiate with Pyongyang at the expense of U.S. national security and that of our allies.


Instead of working with the United States and the international community to disarm the madman in Pyongyang, Beijing has called on the United States and South Korea to halt our military exercises, in exchange for vague promises of North Korea suspending its missile and nuclear activities.


That was a bad deal, and the Trump Administration rightly rejected it.


Moreover, before any talks in any format, the United States and our partners must demand that Pyongyang first meet the denuclearization commitments it had already agreed to in the past – and subsequently chose to brazenly violate.


President Trump should continue to impress with President Xi that a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is in both nations’ fundamental long-term interests.


As Admiral Harry Harris rightly noted recently: “We want to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not to his knees.”


But to achieve this goal, Beijing must be made to choose whether it wants to work with the United States as a responsible global leader to stop Pyongyang – or bear consequences of keeping him in power.


Now I will turn it over to our Ranking Member, Senator Markey.





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 and Subcommittee on Energy.

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