Senators Weigh in on the North Korea Policy Review

March 3, 2017

On March 2, 2017 Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Al Franken (D-MN) co-authored a letter to the President urging the new administration to “adopt a strategy of active diplomatic engagement with North Korea, backed by rigorous sanctions enforcement and a robust military deterrence posture in cooperation with… regional partners.” The letter comes on the heels of a North Korea policy review initiated by the White House to consider a range of proposals, which reportedly include the use of military force. The letter by Senators Markey and Franken underscores the urgency of the situation and called on the President to “reach out directly and discreetly to North Korea with an offer to begin talks about restarting negotiations on their nuclear and ballistic missile activities.” The goals of the negotiations, they outline, should approach the long-term goal of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program in a step-by-step process in exchange for mutual confidence-building measures like economic engagement opportunities and addressing future US-ROK joint military exercises. In tandem with this diplomatic approach, they urge the President to utilize the North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act to strengthen the implementation of existing sanctions. In closing, they reiterate the necessity to “exhaust opportunities for tough diplomacy” before moving to drastically escalate pressure on North Korea. 

This letter was preceded by a letter sent on February 14, 2017 by six Republic Senators, led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) to the Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin. The Senators urge the Secretary to “execute the full extent of financial sanctions and targeted financial measures provided for under current law” on North Korea to bring meaningful economic pressure on North Korea and cut it off from the international banking system. The letter details the gap between the sanctions regime and implementation efforts and the need for “a determined, sustained, and well-resourced campaign to investigate, uncover and sanction the complex web of… third-country companies and banks that fund Kim Jong-un’s regime, facilitate proliferation, and break sanctions.” They offer 10 specific actions that the Treasury Department could take to more effectively “cut off North Korea’s access to the hard currency it uses to finance its illicit nuclear program.”