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Senators to Trump: Keep pressure on North Korea while exploring talks

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Senators to Trump: Keep pressure on North Korea while exploring talks

Six Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees are urging President Trump to continue the so-called maximum pressure campaign against North Korea as the possibility of talks are explored.

“Mr. President, when it comes to the North Korean regime, we must verify before we trust,” the senators wrote in a letter to Trump on Thursday. “While we must take any credible opportunity to talk with Pyongyang about denuclearization, we must also never forget that the DPRK continues to represent a grave threat to the United States, our allies and global peace and stability.

“We ask that you respond to Congress in a timely manner regarding the administration’s strategy to engage the DPRK and your plan for a robust implementation of the maximum pressure campaign against this heinous regime.”

The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), James Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Todd Young (Ind.).

The DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The letter comes as a high-level delegation from South Korea is in Washington to brief the Trump administration on their meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Earlier in the week, a South Korean delegation traveled to Pyongyang and became the first South Korean officials to meet with Kim since he took power in 2011.

On Tuesday, the South Korean envoys announced that Kim told them he is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning nuclear weapons and that he would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while engaged in talks.

The Trump administration and lawmakers greeted the offer cautiously, expressing both hope that talks can happen and skepticism at Kim’s sincerity.

In their letter, the senators said they were “encouraged” by the South Korean delegation’s report out of the meeting in Pyongyang.

But they urged Trump to also impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea and conduct regularly scheduled military exercises with allies in the region.

“We believe that the U.S.-led sanctions campaign against the DPRK is essential to building the necessary leverage to incentivize the regime to peacefully relinquish its weapons of mass destruction,” they wrote. “We must continue to close every avenue of commercial activity with the regime, including by targeting businesses, financial institutions, and third-country nationals for secondary sanctions. These businesses must know that the cost of doing business with the DPRK is global financial isolation.”

Military options also have to remain on the table, they added.

“The DPRK must also know that while the United States and its partners are seeking to solve this crisis peacefully, we will not hesitate to defend the U.S. homeland, our troops in the region, and our treaty allies, with overwhelming military force,” they wrote. “The military option must remain on the table, it must be robust, and DPRK must be made fully aware of the consequences of their actions.” 

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