August 09, 2017

Van Hollen on North Korea: Trump’s Words Undermine U.S. Credibility

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen discussed the escalating tensions with North Korea and his bipartisan North Korea sanctions legislation on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell. Below is a transcript and the video is available here.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: Joining me now is Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. Senator, thank you very much for being with us. Senator Feinstein made the point that it was “too bombastic” and that she thinks that diplomacy is the only path forward.


U.S. SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, I think she's right that diplomacy combined with ratcheting up and implementing, enforcing the economic sanctions, working with China and others is the way –


MITCHELL: And she was pointing out that that is a diplomatic option and that that's what we did at the United Nations.


VAN HOLLEN: That's right. The United Nations passed another round of sanctions. It's important to distinguish between what is on paper and what we actually enforce. Which is why Senator Toomey and I have introduced bipartisan legislation to ratchet up the enforcement, just like we did with the Iran sanctions, right?


The U.N. had passed very stiff sanctions on Iran, but much of the world was looking the other way. The United States needs to say to Chinese banks and financial institutions and others, if you're serious about stopping North Korea, you got to stop doing business with North Korea. And if you don't, you won't have access to the U.S. markets.


MITCHELL: And that would be another whole level of secondary sanctions though. That would be saying to the Chinese, you have to choose between doing business in the dollar economy, basically in the U.S. system, or doing the business with North Korea.


VAN HOLLEN: Well that's right, and I think we need to. The Chinese have now signed on to U.N. sanctions which on paper are very serious. So it is a little bit like calling the Chinese bluff. Are you serious about actually implementing these? If you are, you should have no problem turning off the spigot that some of your banks are providing – not all, some – to North Korea.


MITCHELL: Now you've got Senator Toomey from Pennsylvania, a Republican Senator, on this. Do you have enough support to begin moving on it when you come back?


VAN HOLLEN: I think we've got very broad support. The Congress passed one round of sanctions against North Korea, it was part of the package signed by President Trump. But in the Senate, we believe that what the House did did not go far enough in terms of leveraging the secondary sanctions against North Korea.


That's the way to go. This hot rhetoric from the President only elevates the North Korean leader. This is what the North Koreans love to do, engage in this hot rhetoric. And it actually puts the President of the United States on par with the North Korean leader. We don't want to do that. He should follow the advice of Teddy Roosevelt, right? Speak softly and carry a big stick. That has served Presidents very well.


MITCHELL: Which John McCain, in fact, was talking about on the radio last night, in disagreeing with what the President did. At the same time, Lindsey Graham, I wanted to play just another bit of that interview on CBS today, because Lindsey Graham is supporting the President's rhetoric. Let's watch.


U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): China should have two bad options, deal with a nut job in your backyard or realize there will be a war in your backyard.


MITCHELL: He does have way with words, Senator Graham.


VAN HOLLEN: There you go. Look, I don't think threatening war is a very smart thing for the President of the United States to do or others to do. What we want to do is ratchet down the tensions – but at the same time, be very firm and ratchet up the pressure through economic sanctions and diplomacy. That's a smart combination.


Right now the real danger is the uncertainty created by the President's words, and therefore undermining U.S. credibility. U.S. credibility is really important. It's important that our adversaries and our allies know when we're serious, and if you're just flying off in different directions and you have the Secretary Tillerson policy, and the President Trump policy, and the Secretary Mattis policy, it just creates confusion, which undermines our credibility, which is so important.