National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: July 21, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010--Continued -- (Senate - July 21, 2009)


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, obviously North Korea's actions in recent weeks--months, really; testing a nuclear device on May 25 and launching ballistic missiles on July 4--received the appropriate objection in many different ways of China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and many other countries. Clearly, those actions threaten to undermine the peace and security of northeast Asia, and the U.S. response to those actions ought to be and, I believe, is already resolute. China responded very clearly. The sanctions have been toughened--individual sanctions for the first time. A number of steps were taken by both the United Nations and China. China, incidentally, has been unprecedented in the personalization of some of the sanctions that it has put into place.

I know the Senator from Kansas cares, obviously, enormously about the underlying issue here. But I have to say this amendment, while well intended, simply does not do what it is supposed to do. It has no impact other than the sense of the Senate: sending a message which at this particular moment, frankly, works counterproductively to other efforts that are underway.

Right now, the Secretary of State is meeting at ASEAN. Right now, the various countries involved in this delicate process are working to determine how to proceed forward with respect to getting back to talks and defusing these tensions. For the Senate just to pop on an amendment like this at this moment in time not only sends a signal that complicates that process, but I think it also, frankly, will make it more difficult to secure the return of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

It simply is an inappropriate interference without a foundation, I might add--without a foundation--in the law. Let me be very specific. When President Bush lifted the designation of terrorism--in fact, nothing that the Senator from Kansas has laid out here actually is supported either by the intelligence or by the facts. I could go through his amendment with specificity. Let me give an example. This is from the findings in his amendment:

On March 17, 2009, American journalists ..... were seized near the Chinese-North Korean border by agents. .....

He is citing that as a rationale for putting them back on the list. Well, the fact is, the families themselves, as well as the two journalists--but the families--have acknowledged that they, in fact, were arrested for illegally crossing the border. So that is inappropriate. But not only is it inappropriate to cite a fact that is not a fact, but it is not a cause for putting somebody on the terrorism list.

Nowhere do any of the actions cited here fit into the statutes that apply to whether somebody is designated as appropriately being on the terrorism list. Let me be more specific about that. When President Bush took them off the list, here is what they said. This is the President's certification:

The current intelligence assessment satisfies the second statutory requirement for rescission. Following a review of all available information, we see no credible evidence at this time of ongoing support by the DPRK for international terrorism, and we assess that the current intelligence assessment, including the most recent assessment published May 21, 2008, provides a sufficient basis for certification by the President to Congress that North Korea has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period.

There is no intelligence showing to the contrary, as we come to the floor here today, and it is inappropriate for the Senate simply to step in and assert to the contrary.

Moreover, the President said:

Our review of intelligence community assessments indicates there is no credible or sustained reporting at this time that supports allegations (including as cited in recent reports by the Congressional Research Service) that the DPRK has provided direct or witting support for Hezbollah, Tamil Tigers, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Should we obtain credible evidence of current DPRK support for international terrorism at any time in the future, the Secretary could again designate DPRK a state sponsor of terrorism.

Well, we have not. It simply does not fit under the requirements.

We need to use the right tools. This amendment is flawed and I am convinced could actually undermine what I know is going on right now in terms of efforts by a number of different parties to try to move this process forward. This is not the way a responsible Senate ought to go about trying to deal with an issue with this kind of diplomatic consequence.

The relisting, incidentally, has no practical effect in terms of anything it would do with respect to our current policy other than raise the issue with respect to the Senate at this moment but, as I say, inappropriately with respect to the statutes it concerns.

President Bush actually preserved all the existing financial sanctions on North Korea at the time he lifted the terror designation, and he kept them all in place by using other provisions of law.

The fact is, this administration has, in fact, responded in order to put real costs on North Korea for its actions. We led the international effort at the United Nations Security Council, and we did enact sweeping new sanctions on North Korea, and by all accounts they are biting.

The U.N. Security Council resolution 1874, passed unanimously, imposed the first ever comprehensive international arms embargo on North Korea. Those sanctions are now beginning to take effect. A North Korean ship suspected of carrying arms to Burma turned around after it was denied bunkering services in Singapore, and the Government of Burma itself warned that the ship would be inspected on arrival to ensure that it complied with the U.N. arms embargo. So that is real. That is happening. Significantly, China has agreed to impose sanctions both on North Korean companies and individuals involved in nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation.

So the sanctions that were recently imposed by the Obama administration, in concert with the international community, are having a real impact. So I think we ought to give them time to work. I do not think we ought to come in here and change the dynamics that, as I say, I know are currently being worked on by the Secretary of State. As we are here in the Senate today, those meetings are taking place. It is better for the United States and the international community to focus our efforts on concrete steps rather than resort to a toothless and symbolic gesture. This will have no impact ultimately because we are still going to go down our course, but it can ripple the process which the administration has chosen to pursue.

I might also point out, the President and Secretary of State have been closely communicating with allies and with partners in the region. They are currently involved in discussions with China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan on this issue. Even as we debate the issue here, the effort at the ASEAN Forum is specifically geared to try to coordinate our approach with our treaty allies and with others. We ought to give the administration the opportunity to succeed.

Third, obviously all of us reject the recent actions taken by North Korea. There is no doubt about that. But it was not so long ago that we were actually making some progress on the denuclearization effort. And observers of the region--those who are expert and who follow it closely--are all in agreement as to the rationale which has driven North Korea to take some of the actions it has taken.

I was in China about a month and a half ago. I spent some time with Chinese leaders on this issue because one of the tests took place while I was there and I saw the Chinese reaction up close and personal. I saw the degree to which they were truly upset by it, disturbed by it, and took actions to deal with it.

The fact is that they explained it, as have others, as a reaction by North Korea to perhaps three things: No. 1, the succession issues in North Korea itself; No. 2, the policies of the South Korean Government over the course of the last year or so; and No. 3, the fact that while they had nuclear weapons and had been engaged in a denuclearization discussion with the United States, most of the focus appeared to have shifted to Iran, and there was some sense that the focus should have remained where those nuclear weapons currently exist.

So I believe we need to preserve diplomatic flexibility in the weeks and months ahead. There is an appropriate time for the administration to come to us. There is an appropriate way for us to deal with this issue, to sit down with the administration, to make it clear to them that we think we ought to do this, to talk with them about it, to engage in what the rationale might be under the law. But as I say, none of the reasons that are legitimate under the law for, in fact, a designated country as going on the terrorist list is appropriate or fit here. I think that is the most critical reason of all.

I yield the floor.


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