Washington, D.C. — Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) today called for a “diplomatic surge” to help ease the North Korean nuclear crisis and said it should start with President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to China.
The Maryland senator told an audience at the Center for American Progress Action Fund that Trump should urge Chinese officials to put more pressure on the North Korean regime. He said the United States and China have a common agenda in that neither country wants nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.
“If the president of the United States working with the president of China sets out realistic expectations as to what can be achieved and that the United States’ objective is to have a non-nuclear Korea peninsula—not a regime change—then we can get at least confidence building for a freeze on what North Korea is currently doing, particularly with their ballistic missile tests,” Cardin said.
During a panel discussion that followed Cardin’s remarks, Kelly Magsamen, vice president for National Security and International Policy at CAP Action, said that allies in Asia are worried about the United States drifting away. She said that the Trump administration needs more of a “unifying approach” to the region instead of the ad hoc approach it has taken so far.
“The Chinese play a very long game in Asia, and we’re playing small ball right now, and we can’t really afford to do that much longer,” Magsamen said.
Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said there is little evidence the administration has a real strategy when it comes to North Korea or that Trump is connected to any strategy. Trump is “doing a lot of chest-beating and thinking that actually means policy,” she said.
“While we can have a goal of moving the Chinese to a certain extent, I think it’s very important that we understand what is the art of the possible and what is not,” Rosenberger said.
Brian Harding, director for East and Southeast Asia Policy at CAP Action, said that Trump’s trip to Southeast Asia also poses some challenges, particularly on trade. So far, the administration has worked with individual countries to reduce bilateral trade deficits but has not articulated a broader agenda for the region.
“It’s not addressing the underlying problems in the persistent trade imbalance with Asia; it’s about signing a few deals,” Harding said. “And I’m sure we’ll get a few deals” on the upcoming trip.
The discussion came as the Center for American Progress, CAP Action’s sister 501(c)(3) organization, released a new report urging the Trump administration to use more aggressive diplomatic tactics to de-escalate tensions with North Korea and open a pathway to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
While strengthening deterrence and ramping up sanctions, the United States and its allies should work quickly to offer diplomacy with North Korea on our terms, the report says.
“A carefully calibrated strategy that employs deterrence and sanctions to back up diplomacy can de-escalate tensions and make room for progress,” said Magsamen, a co-author of the report.
Read the report from the Center for American Progress: “A Responsible Approach to North Korea” by Kelly Magsamen, Melanie Hart, Michael Fuchs, and Vikram Singh.
Watch a video of Cardin’s remarks and the panel discussion: “The United States in Asia: President Trump’s Choices and Challenges.”
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