U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday called for a complete economic embargo against North Korea in an effort to prevent nuclear war after the country claimed its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Gardner, a Republican, also said it’s time for China to do its part to deter North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities.
“With each additional missile test by North Korea and weak response by the international community, we are moving further down the road of potential military conflict that would have catastrophic consequences,” Gardner said. “We need to use every diplomatic and economic tool we have now to prevent nuclear war.”
U.S. officials were at first hesitant to call the weapon an intercontinental ballistic missile — which could extend North Korea’s nuclear reach to the United States — though officials later said all indications are that North Korea launched an ICBM, according to reports.
Analysts say the missile is the longest-range weapon that North Korea has tested, with a lengthy flight time of around 37 minutes, placing it in the category of an ICBM. The widespread theory, however, is that North Korea is still a long way from being able to use such a missile for nuclear capabilities.
Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, said actions should be taken to curb North Korea’s ambitions.
“Every nation of conscience should cut off all finance and trade with Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea), with a few limited humanitarian exceptions, until such time that Pyongyang is willing to meet its international commitments to peacefully denuclearize. The United Nations Security Council should immediately endorse such an embargo in a new resolution, and make it binding on all nations.”
Gardner is working on a bill that would ban any entity that does business with North Korea or its enablers from using the U.S. financial system.
Gardner applauded the Trump administration for issuing sanctions last week against entities aiding North Korea. Included in the sanctions was the Bank of Dandong, a Chinese lender that U.S. officials believe enables illegal North Korean financial transactions.
The sanctions were a response to the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who had been imprisoned in North Korea. After being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster, his jailers said he soon fell into a coma. He died six days after his return to the United States last month.
“Time for words is over,” Gardner said. “China can inflict the diplomatic pressure and serious economic damage to North Korea that could move Pyongyang toward peaceful denuclearization and Beijing should do so now.
“If China fails to act, as it has to date, its relationship with the United States cannot remain the same. Beijing now has a real decision to make – allow the dangerous pattern of escalation to continue or step up and help deter a potential nuclear war.”