These excerpted remarks were made at a March 21, 2017 hearing on “Pressuring North Korea: Evaluating Options,” held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
For 20 years, we have responded to every North Korean provocation with either isolation or inducements to negotiate. Our efforts to isolate Pyongyang have either been incomplete or hamstrung by China. Meanwhile, North Korea has used negotiations to extract wealth without ever slowing weapons development. Since 1995, we have provided $1.3 billion in economic and humanitarian assistance to North Korea, and weapons development has only accelerated. As Secretary Tillerson stated during his trip to the region last week, this is 20 years of failed approaches.
The Obama administration’s strategic patience was a low-effort strategy, taking some measures to isolate North Korea, and then simply waiting for the Kim Jong Un regime to wake up and give away his nuclear weapons. Certainly, there is plenty of blame to go around, if we are looking at George Bush taking North Korea off the State Sponsors of Terrorism record, or the Clinton administration allowing North Korea to even start a nuclear program — although it was deemed for peaceful purposes, we saw they strayed from that.
This ineffective approach has gotten us no closer to a denuclearized peninsula. A more forward leaning North Korea policy will require more effort and resolve, as we have seen passivity fail time and again. It takes time. It takes time for these threats — and take the threat seriously and use our entire toolbox …
We have to ensure continued robust support for injecting outside information into North Korea to encourage defection and expose Kim’s propaganda. Thae Yong-Ho, the highest ranking North Korean defector in decades, recently said this was the best way to force change in North Korea. This committee has also done important work in increasing financial pressure on the regime, and I look forward to continuing our work on the sanctions this Congress.
We should also re-list North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in light of its long history of horrific crimes, most recently, the assassination of Kim Jong Nam with the VX nerve agent in Malaysia.
The administration must also start using its secondary sanctions authority against the Chinese entities that have allowed for North Korea’s continued weapons development. China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s economic activity. The failed policies of the past assumed that if the United States did not anger China, China would help promote de-nuclearization. It is time to stop pretending that China’s North Korea policy is motivated by anything else than extreme self-interest of China. China has benefited from undermining sanctions and tolerating North Korea’s nuclear belligerence. North Korea’s missiles are not aimed at China, and the growing security challenge is an excellent distraction from China’s own illicit activities.
• Rep. Ted Yoho, Florida Republican, is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
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