Senator: How to really turn the screws on North Korea

What can the U.S. do about North Korea?
What can the U.S. do about North Korea?

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What can the U.S. do about North Korea? 04:23

Story highlights

  • Sen. Cory Gardner: The time for words is over. North Korea's nuclear efforts must be stopped
  • The global community must impose complete economic embargo, and US must demand China use its leverage to end regime's nuclear program, he writes

Cory Gardner, a Republican, is the junior US senator from Colorado. He previously served as the representative for Colorado's 4th congressional district. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)The North Korean regime's dangerous behavior has continued to ramp up -- with its intercontinental ballistic missile test on our nation's Independence Day and its intercontinental missile test last week. These actions must wake up the world.

The time for words is over. Such serious provocations deserves global condemnation and a show of determined resolve from the United States and our allies. We need to take decisive action before the situation on the Korean Peninsula leads to a nuclear war.
Sen. Cory Gardner
Since coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has significantly accelerated the regime's nuclear and ballistic missiles tests, and has also launched numerous cyberattacks against the United States and our allies. Last year alone, this regime conducted two nuclear tests and attempted some two dozen ballistic missile launches. It is clear that we are rapidly approaching a point of no return, when Pyongyang will have a capable and proven delivery system for a nuclear warhead to be able to reach and potentially cause great harm to the United States.
    President Donald Trump must now make the tough decisions to ensure that his administration will use every tool at its disposal to peacefully denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. In addition to the welcome actions by the administration to impose sanctions against Chinese entities and financial institutions that conduct business with North Korea, the President's leadership will be needed to take the next steps in what he has called his "maximum pressure" approach.
    First, I'm urging the administration to join me in calling on the global community to impose a complete economic embargo against the heinous regime in Pyongyang. Every nation of conscience should cut off all finance and trade with North Korea, with a few limited humanitarian exceptions, until such time that Pyongyang is willing to meet its international commitments to peacefully denuclearize.
    The UN Security Council should immediately endorse such an embargo in a new resolution, and make it binding on all nations. Last month, I introduced bipartisan legislation that would ban any entity that does business with North Korea or its enablers from using the United States financial system.
    The administration's new sanctions can only be the first step.
    The second: If Kim Jong Un intends to continue these missile tests, I expect the United States to react accordingly and to announce new measures against this malevolent regime. Whenever there is a single dollar-denominated transaction that is found to benefit this regime, I expect our Treasury Department to find it, block it, and make sure those who are enabling these transactions can never do business with the United States.
    Whenever there is an individual that is aiding and abetting North Korean human rights abuses and labor trafficking, that person should never set foot in the United States and their assets should be blocked. Whenever a North Korean ship is carrying illicit cargo, it should be interdicted, as allowable by international law.
    Third, our relationship with China must now hinge on Beijing's full enforcement of a range of measures to stop Pyongyang. China has the most economic leverage to inflict serious damage to the regime's ability to build its illicit nuclear and missile programs and to abuse its own people.
    Let's remember -- this is a nation that is propping up North Korea. 90% of North Korea's trade is through China. China holds the most effective keys to stopping this madman. The Trump administration must employ a wide range of both coercive and noncoercive diplomatic tools to make clear to Beijing that any further coddling of Pyongyang means that business as usual with the United States will end.
    Finally, the United States must continue our show-of-force exercises around North Korea, and the building of joint capabilities with our allies, Republic of Korea and Japan. A strong, trilateral alliance between these three countries can arguably provide the most effective policy tool to deter Pyongyang and to promote lasting peace and security in the region.
    Kim Jong Un must know that should economic and diplomatic measures fail, the United States and our allies will have the capability and resolve to counter his aggression with the strongest military the world has ever known.
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    The United States can only negotiate with this regime from a position of strength and only if Pyongyang first abides by the denuclearization commitments it has previously made, but subsequently chose to unilaterally discard.
    Peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula must be our ultimate objective and it is our duty to try all diplomatic options to achieve this goal. The Trump administration can show the world that the United States will no longer lead from behind, but instead find a comprehensive solution the global community supports.