Statement on the Hanoi Summit: If We Want a Better Deal We Need to Apply Stronger Sanctions
Walking away from Hanoi without an agreement or substantive declaration was the right move. No deal is better than a bad deal, and this would have been such a bad deal that Trump could not have sold it even to his base.
The North Koreans were willing to close Yongbyon in return for full sanctions relief. Shutting down and dismantling the facilities at the Yongbyon complex is indeed an essential step at this point, but it is insufficient for full-scale sanctions relief. Kim has other facilities that produce fissile materials for bombs, including one site known as Kangson where highly enriched uranium is produced.
What we needed from the North Koreans was an agreement to stop producing fissile material for bombs, in return for some steps from the United States, perhaps including some relief on sanctions. Yongbyon alone is not enough, and certainly not enough for full sanctions relief.
The president has suggested we will continue talking, and the status quo will continue. We should remember that every day that passes Kim is building his arsenal – he is, by all accounts, producing more fissile material for bombs, making more bombs and making more missiles. In fact, since the Trump Administration came to office, North Korea has produced enough material for roughly 20 bombs. And since the Singapore summit, North Korea has produced enough material for eight bombs.
I hope that the Administration will continue to talk to the North Koreans. I also hope we will increase sanctions enforcement and build a stronger sanctions regime. In 2017 and again in 2018, the chief Republican on the Asia Subcommittee, Ted Yoho, and I have pushed for the Trump Administration to sanction large Chinese banks that have moved money for the Kim regime. We will do so again in 2019. Until we hit the big firms that allow Kim access to the financial system, we have not applied the pressure necessary to reach an acceptable deal with North Korea.
The performance of Trump and his team in Hanoi suggests they were not prepared for this summit and the position the North Koreans would take, and that made failure highly likely. Trump also made the unfortunate statement that he believes Kim when the North Korean leader told him that he does not know how Otto Warmbier ended up in a coma. Trump said he believes Putin’s denials about meddling in our elections, and he says he believes Kim’s denials about Warmbier, but he does not believe American climate scientists.
Developing a rapport with leaders, even absolute despots like Kim, is a necessary evil in diplomacy. Fawning over them, and approving the lies they spout, is not.