US Senators Frustrated With North Korea

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 6:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. senators have expressed alarm, displeasure and frustration with North Korea's insistence on launching a missile last week. VOA spoke with several of them on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain said North Korea's actions are part of an ongoing cycle of aggression and negotiation. He called on China — North Korea's closest ally — to pressure the reclusive communist nation to change its ways.

“We have seen this game for the last 20 years — confrontation, then aid, and failed talks, then confrontation. We have seen it over and over again. If there is any good news about it (the failed rocket launch), it probably saved the American taxpayer about $200 million, because they were going to give a couple hundred tons of food aid, which we now know goes to the army and the elite. Yet it seems we will never learn. The country that can change North Korean behavior is China, and China refuses to do so.”

McCain said the U.S. now knows that food aid to North Korea winds up in the hands of the North Korean military and the nation's elite. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham agreed, saying food should not be used as a bargaining chip because it does not reach the people for whom it is intended. He also said the international community should not take any comfort from the fact that Pyongyang's rocket launch failed.

“I think the world should be alarmed that the regime seems to be hellbent on developing missile capability and nuclear technology, and that these failures will eventually be overcome. We have seen this movie before. We need to have a different strategy with North Korea.”

Like McCain, Graham pointed to China as the best hope for getting through to North Korea.

“What I would do is severely isolate the regime and try to penetrate to themselves. Putting pressure on China, saying, 'We are going to judge our relationship with China by how you (China) handle North Korea' — make it one of the dominant issues between China and the United States.”

Democratic Senator Carl Levin said he takes some comfort in the fact that the missile launch failed.

“It shows that they are not particularly effective at what they do, and anything that makes them less effective should make us a little bit more happy, it seems to me.”

And Democrat Dianne Feinstein noted that while the world views Pyongyang with suspicion, there is still hope that North Korea's new leader — Kim Jong Un, son of now-deceased longtime leader Kim Jong Il — will bring the nation into closer cooperation with the international community.

“My hope was that this new leader, Kim Jong Un, could reassure the rest of the world that North Korea wanted to be part of the world community and be cooperative. I still hope that may come.”

Last Friday's incident sparked emergency talks between U.S. and South Korean diplomats to discuss a response. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell visited Seoul on Monday, and South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Sung-nam is in Washington Tuesday through Thursday, for talks with State Department officials.