U.S. President Donald Trump should use his visit to Beijing to underscore that North Korea's denuclearization is in both countries' interests, a Republican senator said Wednesday.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) made the call hours before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were to meet over North Korea's nuclear weapons threats and other issues.
"President Trump should continue to impress with President Xi that a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is in both nations' fundamentally long-term interests and that the United States does not seek regime change in North Korea," Gardner said at a forum.
China is North Korea's only major ally and trading partner. And while it has recently stepped up sanctions against Pyongyang, it is considered to have significantly more leverage to stop the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"We've begun to ramp up economic pressure against both Pyongyang and its enablers, but much more needs to be done," said Gardner, who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs. "The administration is also slowly coming to terms that the road to peacefully stopping Pyongyang undoubtedly lies through Beijing."
The senator noted that Washington has blocked Chinese and other foreign entities linked to North Korea's weapons development from accessing the U.S. financial system.
"The administration should not be afraid of a diplomatic confrontation with Beijing for simply enforcing U.S. law," he said. "In fact, it should be more afraid of Congress if it does not."
China has been slow to exercise maximum pressure on North Korea over concerns the regime could collapse and spark a massive influx of refugees across the border, and worse still, establish a unified, U.S.-allied Korea on its doorstep.