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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The Trump administration has done “little to hold North Korea to account” after repeated missile tests, and should “step up” enforcement of sanctions on the country, a bipartisan pair of U.S. Senators wrote this week in a letter to the State and Treasury Secretaries.
The letter — written by Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations committee, and Senator Cory Gardner, the Republican chair of the committee’s East Asia panel — comes after North Korea conducted four rounds of missile tests last month, all while the coronavirus was spreading rapidly around the world.
Multiple European governments, along with South Korea, already condemned the North’s missile tests as dangerous and inappropriate during a pandemic, but President Trump’s response to the launches — his reaction after the first test, he said, was “no reaction” — seems to have attracted the ire of members of Congress from both political parties.
“We write to underscore the growing threat posed by the [DPRK] and request that you urgently prioritize resources within your respective agencies to step up enforcement of U.S. and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions on the North Korean government, while ensuring that humanitarian aid can reach the North Korean people, consistent with U.S. and international law,” the Senators wrote.
“We urge you to continue to make clear that the ultimate objective of United States policy remains to seek denuclearization of the DPRK, a longstanding policy goal enshrined in U.S. law,” they wrote.
The Senators added that North Korea had conducted at least 26 missile tests last year as well.
“Yet the administration did little to hold North Korea to account, sending a dangerous signal,” they continued.
“Without the administration’s strong and continued condemnation of these launches and additional deterrent measures from the United States and with our allies and partners, North Korea will continue to expand its ballistic missile capabilities.”
The letter was addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The two Senators accused the administration of not doing enough to enforce existing sanctions laws, in order to put pressure on the government in Pyongyang.
“The United States cannot continue to stand silent – or be complicit – as the sanctions regime erodes,” they said.
If the letter is noticed by Pyongyang — the North Korean foreign ministry called Gardner “mentally deranged” in 2017 — it will likely anger the regime, which says it vehemently opposes sanctions and sees the U.S. as a threat.
Last week, after Secretary Pompeo told a meeting of G7 foreign ministers that the world must “remain united” on the North Korea nuclear issue, the North said the chief U.S. diplomat was making diplomacy less likely.
“Hearing Pompeo’s reckless remarks, we dropped the interest in dialogue with further conviction,” an official in charge of negotiations with the U.S. reportedly said, according to DPRK state media.
The two countries have been caught in a diplomatic stalemate for more than a year over nuclear weapons and sanctions, and their negotiators have not met face-to-face in months.
The Trump administration has done "little to hold North Korea to account" after repeated missile tests, and should "step up" enforcement of sanctions on the country, a bipartisan pair of U.S. Senators wrote this week in a letter to the State and Treasury Secretaries.
The letter -- written by Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations committee, and Senator Cory Gardner, the Republican chair of the committee's East Asia panel -- comes after North Korea conducted four rounds of missile tests last month, all while the coronavirus was spreading rapidly around the world.