A ranking Democratic congressman on Tuesday accused current and past U.S. administrations of holding back on applying real pressure on North Korea to prevent harm to their political interests.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) issued scathing criticism of U.S. policy toward the regime over the last 20 years during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.
In attendance were two witnesses -- Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Marshall Billingslea, assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.
|This EPA file photo shows Rep. Brad Sherman. (Yonhap)|
"Folks, I've been coming to this room for 20 years and not much has changed," Sherman said, after Thornton acknowledged there was "no understanding" with Beijing on the Pyongyang-Tehran direct flights that stop to refuel in China and could be carrying nuclear weapons.
"For 20 years, administrations have been coming here and telling me that we don't have to make any concessions to North Korea, we don't have to do anything that would make any single American company upset, and we're going to make the American people safe," he said.
"But the fact is, that North Korea's real GDP has grown 50 percent in the last 20 years."
Sherman lamented the fact that increasing levels of economic sanctions have had little effect on curbing North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"I hear that we're going to have unprecedented sanctions, which means that we found a few more companies to sanction just as they've invented a few more companies and created them. Whether we can list them faster than they can create them, I don't know," he said.
The lawmaker also expressed skepticism that going after North Korea's oil imports will solve the problem. In adopting new sanctions on Monday, the U.N. Security Council capped the country's imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products in a bid to stop their use in nuclear weapons and missile development.
"They use about the same amount of oil as 150 gas stations. That's less than there are on Ventura Boulevard. And of course, they can liquefy their coal and use that in lieu of oil," he said.
"There's never enough pressure on the North Korean regime to cause regime-threatening levels," Sherman added. "But while we haven't made the American people safer, we've met the political objectives here in the United States. We don't threaten China, even a little bit, with country sanctions because that would be politically difficult for the United States to do. We don't adopt reasonable objectives, like a freeze in the North Korean program, because that would be politically difficult to do."
North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, triggering another set of U.N. sanctions just a month after it was banned from exporting coal, iron and other key commodities for its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. (Yonhap)
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