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Gardner says Trump administration wants diplomacy, show of force in dealing with North Korea

Posted: 4:53 PM, Apr 26, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-26 19:04:32-04
Gardner says Trump administration wants diplomacy, show of force in dealing with North Korea

WASHINGTON – Sen. Cory Gardner said the Trump administration’s stance on how to deal with the threat from North Korea is designed to “counter” what he called the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” that has brought tensions to where they are today.

Read the full transcript of the post-meeting interview at the bottom of this story.

His remarks, which echoed Vice President Mike Pence’s statements last week in which he blamed the Obama administration, came shortly after he left an hour-long briefing at the White House, which was attended by most U.S. senators and presented by President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Intelligence Director Dan Goats and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gardner, a Colorado Republican who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairs its East Asia, Pacific and International Cybersecurity subcommittee, has over the past several years become one of most-respected congressmen when it comes to North Korea.

That was evident Wednesday, when Sen. Marco Rubio said Gardner was the “go-to person” on North Korea, and Sen. Jeff Flake said that people “trust his instincts” on North Korea in interviews with Roll Call.

Since late last year, Gardner has called multiple times for the Trump administration to be forceful in enforcing policy and sanctions against North Korea for its ongoing nuclear proliferation and missile tests.

“I think it’s clear that North Korea continues to rise in its level of threat,” Gardner told Denver7 Wednesday. “We know that the conditions on the Korean Peninsula are at their most unstable point since the armistice, and that fact is they’re developing a nuclear weapon and they’re trying every day to hit the homeland of the United States with.”

Though Trump only attended the meeting for about five minutes , Gardner says the other national security heads in attendance said that the new administration was working to pressure North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program by utilizing sanctions and pressuring allies like Japan and South Korea to push China to help out with North Korean relations.

But though a State Department statement said the U.S. “seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and that it remains “open to negotiations towards that goal,” which is similar to the Obama administration’s stance, Gardner, like his fellow Republicans, blamed the tension on Obama.

"The doctrine of strategic patience that has been followed the last eight years allowed North Korea to develop a robust nuclear infrastructure, and unfortunately, it kind of led with a condition that if you act bad for long enough, you get what you want,” Gardner said.

But he said the new administration’s policies would be more effective.

“That’s exactly what the new doctrine is designed to counter, and that’s to place maximum pressure on the North Korean regime and maximum pressure on those like China, nations like China, who really, truly do have the economic and the security leverage to denuclearize North Korea,” Gardner said.

He said he was hopeful that warship movements toward the Korean peninsula, and the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system would be effective shows of force, but that working with other Asian allies in diplomatic efforts would prove most worthwhile.

“I believe that the administration is building a relationship with Japan and south Korea, strengthening that relationship between the three nations, which is absolutely critical to pressure China to engage more with North Korea,” Gardner said.

But he also said the new administration should look at secondary sanctions against China and North Korea if they are violating current agreements.

“I think the administration ought to look at additional secondary sanctions on Chinese entities, or individuals who are violating our sanctions, to make sure they are held accountable if they’re helping North Korea gain resources or dollars for the proliferation of their nuclear program,” Gardner told Denver7.

He said he thought there was “a lot of newfound interest in North Korea” from his fellow senators.

North Korea’s mission to the U.N. on Wednesday said the nation’s government would react to a “total” war with the U.S. with nuclear war, adding that the isolated nation would “surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists” and that North Korea “can never be frightened” by the Trump administration.

And though all signs pointed to efforts by the U.S. to engage in diplomatic negotiations, the State Department said it “remain[s] prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”

The full transcript of the interview can be read below:

(Denver7’s Blair Miller): You just got out of a meeting at the White House with President Trump and some other folks talking about North Korea. What can you tell me about what you learned?

Sen. Cory Gardner: I think it’s clear that North Korea continues to rise in its level of threat. We know that the conditions on the Korean Peninsula are at their most unstable point since the armistice, and that fact is they’re developing a nuclear weapon and they’re trying every day to hit the homeland of the United States with.

Sen. Gardner: And so the hearing focused on the actions the United States has taken, the actions the U.S. will move forward with.

Sen. Gardner: But more importantly, I think, are the discussions that we continue to have is centered around the policy of strategic patience that led us to this point. The doctrine of strategic patience that has been followed the last eight years allowed North Korea to develop a robust nuclear infrastructure, and unfortunately, it kind of led with a condition that if you act bad for long enough, you get what you want.

Sen. Gardner: And so that’s exactly what the new doctrine is designed to counter, and that’s to place maximum pressure on the North Korean regime and maximum pressure on those like China, nations like China, who really, truly do have the economic and the security leverage to denuclearize North Korea.

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Miller: I know you’ve done a lot of work, especially over the past several months, on stuff involving North Korean sanctions. Do you see what the administration has going forward in line with what your efforts have been?

Sen. Gardner: Well we have called for a show of force. I believe the administration is carrying that out with the U.S.S. Vincent as well as the deployment of THAD, the missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula. It’s important to protect our allies. We have a treaty obligation to protect South Korea and Japan, and I believe that the administration is building a relationship with Japan and South Korea, strengthening that relationship between the three nations, which is absolutely critical to pressure China to engage more with North Korea.

Sen. Gardner: And so I believe there are additional steps that we should take though. I think the administration ought to look at additional secondary sanctions on Chinese entities or individuals who are violating our sanctions to make sure they are held accountable if they’re helping North Korea gain resources or dollars for the proliferation of their nuclear program.

Sen. Gardner: And so while I’m very pleased to see more pressure being brought to bear on both China and North Korea, I would like to see more in terms of secondary sanctions place on violators of our sanctions.

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Miller: You seem to have more of a grasp on some of this North Korea stuff than some of, possibly, your fellow senators. Anything they had to say about what they learned today?

Sen. Gardner: I think there’s a lot of newfound interest in North Korea. Two years ago, when I took over the chairmanship of the East Asia subcommittee, I recognized that North Korea was going to be one of the National Security flashpoint that this Congress would face.

Sen. Gardner: And certainly, as we’ve seen five nuclear tests over the past couple of years – dozens of ballistic missile launches and attempts – it’s actually come to fruition as a national security flashpoint. And so what we have to do now is No. 1, maintain our goal of peaceful denuclearization of the North Korean regime. No. 2, we have to enlist our great allies like Japan and South Korea in this effort. And No. 3, we have to put the maximum pressure on China to make sure that they are using their economic leverage to pressure the Kim Jong-Un regime into denuclearization.


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