Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, thank you for recognizing me. The pending legislation that we are visiting about today provides tougher sanctions on North Korea and I consider it a significant development and it’s certainly welcome as Congress once again begins to assert its role in defending national security and curtailing the growing number of nuclear weapons around the globe.

In the decade since North Korea's first successful nuclear test, the threat of nuclear proliferation has not diminished. We concluded, the United States concluded an agreement with Iran that leaves its nuclear infrastructure in place, causing others in the region to declare their own interest in obtaining nuclear weapons.

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is the fastest growing in the world, and it continues to destabilize the region through its ties to terror organizations. And North Korea continues to build its nuclear stockpile and its ability to deliver future weapons.

In all three of these circumstances, Congress has been the source of pressure on these nations--enacting tougher sanctions on Iran, placing a hold on security funding for Pakistan, and now this legislation today builds on those previous efforts. The results may vary, but as I see it, my colleagues in this Chamber and in the House have been much more proactive than the administration in imposing the costs for failing to adhere to international norms.

President Obama's approach of strategic patience has failed to accomplish the objective in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table, and certainly no agreement by them to dismantle their nuclear arsenal and their nuclear program. North Korea has tested three nuclear weapons on the President's watch and some experts believe its stockpile could grow to 100 weapons by 2020 – from 10 to 15 weapons today. In addition to nuclear weapons, the regime is believed to possess chemical and biological weapons.

North Korea is advancing in missile technology and has engaged in cyber-attacks against South Korea, Japan and American entities. North Korean missiles might not yet be able to reach the continental United States, but American service members stationed in South Korea and Japan and tens of millions of innocent lives are menaced by the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the possession of an aggressive regime with little regard for what the world thinks of it.

The Arms Control Association notes, and I quote, “North Korea has been a key supplier of missiles and missile technology to countries in the developing world, particularly in politically unstable regions such as the Middle East and South Asia.” The recipients of such expertise are said to be Pakistan and Iran, among others. In fact, American intelligence judged the Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 2007 to have been constructed with North Korean assistance.

Equally worthy of attention is Kim Jong Un's regime’s brutal treatment of its own people. Just 2 years ago, the U.N. Human Rights Council published a report concluding that “the gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

It would be disingenuous to stand here and place all the blame on the President or the administration. North Korea is the one – is one of the most difficult nations in the world to understand and regional complexities make it difficult to find a solution.

North Korea has taken advantage of lapses in American resolve during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, conducting its first nuclear test in 2006. Nevertheless, it’s obvious to me that a change in approach is necessary. “Strategic patience” has been exhausted. Stronger measures are necessary. While the ideal approach is to work in concert with the U.N. Security Council, we cannot afford to wait for consensus on punitive measures from the U.N. that may never come.

My colleagues have written legislation that ensures sanctions are mandatory, only to be waived on a case-by-case basis that requires a written explanation justifying the waiver.

The secondary sanctions will penalize those outside of North Korea who assist in the regime's nefarious behavior. Without China's support in restricting North Korea's ambition, the efforts of America and the world face an uphill battle. Up to this point, China believes that an unstable North Korea is more dangerous than a North Korea with an advanced nuclear program; therefore, the enforcement of secondary sanctions is a necessary step to seek cooperation in dismantling their nuclear program.

I am pleased that the bill includes language to deter and punish cyber-attacks by codifying sanctions as well as requiring the President to offer a counterstrategy to North Korea's cyber capabilities. The ongoing cyber activities are damaging to our security and our economy as well as the economy and security of our friends. The bill also attempts to address the deplorable treatment of the North Korean people by their own government.

This legislation is certainly not without risk. China may retaliate in some manner, North Korea may become even more bellicose, and it could be – could very well fail to pressure Kim's regime to surrender its nuclear program. Yet, it’s painfully clear that the status quo is not working and that global security is imperiled as our government stands by.

Fear of risk and failure will not stop us from exhausting all peaceful options to curb nuclear proliferation. Every effort must be made to convince North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons. Congress is once again doing its part in the fight against proliferation.

Chairman Corker, and Senator Gardner, and the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Durbin – who is on the floor – ought to be commended for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to joining them in passing legislation later today that will put teeth to American diplomacy.