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Gardner talks parenthood, NKorea, Trump as ‘chief diplomat’ with The Durango Herald

Author: Kara Mason - May 29, 2018 - Updated: May 29, 2018

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Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., left, speaks to the media in this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Sometimes Sen. Cory Gardner walks circles in his Yuma backyard just so he can get cell phone reception to talk to the president or secretary of state. That’s what he told The Durango Herald in a recent interview about his role as a foreign policy leader.

Gardner is the chairman of the subcommittee on East Asia. And so from trade to military operations, Herald writer Andrew Eversden points out, there’s a lot for Gardner to discuss with the state department and President Donald Trump.

Those serious conversations — especially given the turbulent relationship the U.S. has with North Korea — can be an interesting balancing act for the senator.

“The other hard thing (is) when you’ve got the kids in the car,” Gardner told Eversden. “(We’ve) gone to the grocery store, they’re screaming in the background and the State Department switchboard comes through and says ‘Senator Gardner, the secretary of state is on the phone for you.’ You take it, and it’s on Bluetooth.”

Gardner explained in the interview that while Yuma is thousands of miles from North Korea — the Senator serves as the “pointman” for all things North Korea — the small farming community was where Gardner said he got his first lessons in foreign policy.

He said he remembers farmers talking about the Russian wheat embargo in the 1980s.

That experience grew when he beat former Sen. Mark Udall in 2014. That’s when Gardner was appointed to the Senate foreign relations committee.

Gardner told Eversden that Asia is the “most consequential region for America’s future,” but the U.S. doesn’t seem to have a strategy in addressing Asia, he added.

Gardner has introduced sanctions. Just last month he and a few other senators released the “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act.” That would create a plan that closes the “gaping holes” Gardner said exist in U.S. policy.

Gardner is clear that there is one goal for North Korea: “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” he said.

Trump was to meet with Kim Jung Un in June, but that meeting has since been canceled, with no clear signs what happens next.

Gardner said what happens with North Korea will be up to the president. But added that he worries where to go if the nation’s chief diplomat fails.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for ColoradoPolitics.com. She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.