Colorado’s Cory Gardner wants to ‘ramp up’ sanctions on China in joust with N. Korea

Demonstrating yet again that he aims to own North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — if not in the slangier sense, then at least as an issue on Capitol Hill — Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner denounced the rogue ruler’s latest ballistic missile test and called on the Trump administration Monday to pressure China to help rein Kim in.

In a statement distributed via press release, Gardner is quoted saying the U.S. is not doing enough to hold China accountable for “enabling North Korea’s nuclear program,” and he called for sanctions.

North Korea carried out an apparent ballistic missile test over the weekend; media reports say it is the 10th such test this year. Although national security experts continue to cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear warhead, they nonetheless say the tests show steady progress.

The Trump administration denounced the latest launch and labeled North Korea a “flagrant menace,” reinforcing the White House’s increasingly blunt and aggressive tone on the renegade country.

Gardner’s public statement, however, comes across as one-upping the Trump team, goading the administration to do more. From Monday’s press release:

“The most recent missile test by North Korea appears to be one of its most advanced yet, and proves that a policy of maximum pressure that fully enforces all sanctions against the regime is the only way to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses,” said Gardner. “It is clear that North Korea is learning from those tests and improving their capabilities, with the ultimate goal of reaching the U.S. homeland.”

…“The time for rhetoric is over — it is time for concerted action,” continued Gardner. “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is at the most unstable point since the armistice and the Administration must immediately ramp up the sanctions track, especially against the Chinese that are enabling North Korea’s nuclear program. I do not believe we are putting requisite pressure against China that is necessary to stop Pyongyang, and I’ll continue to urge the Administration to do so.”

Gardner, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, seems to have found a foothold in foreign affairs — and a foil in North Korea. As his press release points out, he authored the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate and was signed into law last year. It gives the president a range of policy options to put pressure on North Korea and its supporters in other countries.

Gardner and the North Korean regime also have traded superheated barbs, with Gardner recently referring to the country’s strongman as a “whack job” and the country’s foreign ministry firing back, calling Gardner, “…a man mixed in with human dirt … who has lost basic judgment and body hair.”

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