Colo. Lawmakers Call for Sterner Approach to North Korea

April 18, 2012
Edward N. Johnson / Foter

WASHINGTON – Voicing frustration with North Korea’s defiance of international agreements, Colorado House members from both parties say the United States should adopt a tougher approach toward the rogue nation.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) suggested she supports the Obama administration’s decision to cancel a shipment of 240,000-metric tons of food aid to North Korea. “We should eliminate the carrots, because it’s clear the carrots don’t work,” DeGette said in an interview Wednesday.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) said the United States should stop negotiating directly with Pyongyang. “We should stop doing with what we’ve been doing,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s usually predictable. They speed up their weapons testing. They violated their agreement. They’re desperate for (food) aid but resume their (military programs). They violated their agreement. I just think we need to stop being played by the North Koreans.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Grand Junction) suggested the U.S. State Department should lean more heavily on China, a major supplier of North Korea’s energy and food stuffs. “It’s not in China’s interest for a rogue regime to have a nuclear bomb either,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The lawmakers’ call for a tougher approach with North Korea reflects disenchantment with the policy of engagement that previous administrations from both parties had adopted.

Even a top official from the administration of Republican George W. Bush indicated that both Democratic and Republican administrations had failed to carry through with a sterner approach to North Korea. John R. Bolton, a former U.S.’s ambassador to the United Nation, decried “20 years of failed policy.” A spokesperson for the State Department did not return a call seeking comment.

Both Republican and Democratic presidents have sought to negotiate with Pyongyang to give up its nuclear testing regime in exchange for international recognition and food aid, which would help a country whose inhabitants suffer from chronic malnutrition, hunger, and even starvation.

But Pyongyang’s decision to violate a Feb. 29 agreement with the United States has caused many lawmakers and Obama administration officials to see the island nation in a new light. On April 13, North Korea launched a rocket over the Yellow Sea which disintegrated minutes later. On Wednesday, the country’s foreign ministry said it would resume testing of nuclear devices and long-range missiles because the United States withdrew its offer of food aid.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) said the rocket launch “shows that negotiating with North Korea is a fool’s errand.” Like several Colorado House members, he called for China to apply more pressure on North Korea and for canceling the shipment of food aid.

“Any type of economic assistances goes to the military regime so it’s not really humanitarian aide,” he said in an interview last week.

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