Top Armed Services Dem: Sanctions Won't Stop North Korea, Only 'Guaranteed Response'

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said those vowing to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program have to acknowledge sanctions don’t work, because Kim Jong-un just doesn’t care.

After North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told CNN on Friday that “China is in the best position to put pressure on North Korea, but I think it’s incredibly naive to say that it’s just China’s problem.”

“It’s certainly South Korea’s problem, Japan and ours. We have a country that’s dangerous. They apparently don’t care whether their people starve or not. And they possess nuclear weapons,” he said. “It’s a global threat.”

Asked about Donald Trump’s comments earlier this summer that he would negotiate directly with Kim Jong-un and would “accept” a visit in Washington from the dictator, Smith replied, “I don’t think there would be any point to that at this point.”

“Kim Jong-un, we have negotiated with him multiple times. The Clinton administration did. The Bush administration did. And I think what they have made clear is …they’re going to build these weapons. And they don’t care about their people. They don’t care if they starve,” the Armed Services ranking member said.

“So, what we have to do is, we have to make it absolutely clear that if they engage in any military activity, they will be destroyed. We have to have a credible deterrent. That seems to be the only thing that will stop North Korea from engaging in military action… We have sanctioned them, and we should keep sanctioning them, but it’s not going to stop them from developing the nuclear weapons.”

In a statement Friday, President Obama vowed to “take additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions.”

Smith said “it would be a dangerous mistake to show Kim Jong-un that we’re not going to stand up, because that would I think likely provoke him to act. If he thought he could get away with it, he’d do it.”

“We’re the ones that can make sure that he doesn’t think he can do it.”

Asked if North Korea is afraid of deterrence measures, Smith answered, “No.”

“We have got to control them and hope that something changes at some point in the future. There’s nothing wrong with trying. But in the meantime, the only thing that will stop North Korean aggression is if Kim Jong-un thinks that if he acts that way, he will cease to exist, his regime will cease to exist. We have to make clear that that deterrent is in place,” Smith said. “…We have simply got to deter them through a guaranteed response.”