Mr. CARDIN. I thank Republic of Korea, ROK, President Park Geun-hye for her thought-provoking and heartfelt address on May 8 to a joint meeting of Congress. President Park is a testament to her nation's resilience. Like her country, she has courageously weathered difficulties and emerged as a strong leader on the global stage--her nation's first woman President.
Her momentous visit to the United States came at an opportune time to underscore the solidarity and cooperation between our two countries. Our deep ties with the Korean people stretch back to Korea's Chosun Dynasty, when we established diplomatic relations in 1882. One hundred and thirty-one years later, we are expanding our relationship in new ways.
This year we celebrate 60 years of the U.S.-ROK alliance, established in 1953 by our Mutual Defense Treaty. In Korean culture, which greatly respects its elders, the 60th birthday of a person's life, called a ``hwan-gap,'' holds great significance. It acknowledges the wisdom and maturity that a person attains by the peak of a productive life.
And so, too, has the U.S.-Korea relationship proven fruitful and productive. Our relationship is more than a military alliance; it is a comprehensive partnership. Our people-to-people ties are strong; per capita, South Korea sends more students to the United States to study than any other industrialized country. We cooperate on counterterrorism efforts and on development assistance. One year ago, we demonstrated our commitment to strengthen our economies with the signing of our free trade agreement.
South Koreans have created an economic ``Miracle on the Han River'' out of a country once leveled by war. The country has risen from being an aid recipient to becoming a world economic power, which now lends a hand to help other nations flourish.
The Republic of Korea had a GDP per capita of $79 in 1960; today its GDP per capita is over $30,000. It is one of the fastest growing developed countries in the world. And we are proud to have played a role in helping our friend climb from poverty to prosperity, in contrast to its northern neighbor, whose people continue to suffer greatly from poverty.
So there is much to celebrate during this 60th year of our alliance. And President Park has attested to the strength of the enduring global alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States. This is an historic anniversary, not only of our friendship, but of the end of the Korean war.
Since the end of the war, the Republic of Korea has practiced restraint and mature diplomacy in the face of tremendous threats, continued bellicose rhetoric, and provocative actions from North Korea. This is in no small part due to the strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance and our close cooperation.
As President Park has demonstrated in her determined but flexible approach, we need to preserve stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region by acting decisively together to address both North Korea's provocations and the dire humanitarian situation there.
North Korea continues to threaten U.S. interests and the security of our friends and allies. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, I have been closely watching the alarming developments following North Korea's February 12 nuclear test, including its declaration that it nullified the 1953 armistice, and its decision to shut down the Kaesong industrial complex, and its repeated threats to strike the United States and our allies. And I am deeply concerned about American citizen Kenneth Bae, who last week was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korea gulag for ``hostile acts'' against the country and Kim Jong-Un's regime.
We must do more to reach an international solution on bringing North Korea back into the denuclearization process. It is essential to ensure the continued safety of Americans and our allies in the Asia-Pacific region and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the strategically critical Korean peninsula.
And we must not forget the humanitarian crisis that is besieging the North Korean people, as they are often imprisoned, starved, and deprived of civil liberties and freedoms at the hands of a ruthless authoritarian state.
So what more can we do? This March, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on North Korea which underscored the importance of working with the United Nations Security Council to strengthen sanctions on North Korea. The United States has intensified coordination on addressing the North Korean threat with Japan and developed a new counter-provocation plan with the Republic of Korea. In April, I chaired a Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs hearing during which we discussed ways to work with China to help change North Korea's dangerous path.
I was pleased to see Secretary Kerry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, and Deputy Secretary Burns travel to China to seek China's help to rein in North Korea. And I welcomed the recent visit of the Chinese chairman of the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, to Washington.
It was encouraging to see China strongly support UN Security Council Resolution 2094. This resolution imposes tough new financial sanctions which will block North Korea from moving money to pay for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and makes arms smuggling and proliferation more difficult. The sanctions will only be successful if all countries rigorously implement and enforce them.
The international community, including the U.S., must sustain sanctions and continue systematic pressure. We hope that China will be sincere in implementing these sanctions and reduce its economic support of North Korea.
New sanctions alone, however, cannot halt the pattern of North Korean provocations and broken promises. The United States will not reward bad behavior. We must use all of the diplomatic, military, financial, and multilateral tools at our disposal in a newly coordinated effort to move beyond the current stalemate.
Along with Senators Menendez, Corker, and others, I have cosponsored the North Korea Nonproliferation and Accountability Act of 2013, which would direct the Department of State to undertake a comprehensive review of our North Korea policy to look for creative ways to re-engage. If North Korea shows a serious intent to denuclearize, halt its proliferation activities and improve human rights, we should be open to bilateral talks, as Secretary Kerry stated on his April trip to the region. We must continue to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. We stand by Japan, South Korea, and other allies in providing extended nuclear deterrence under our ``nuclear umbrella.'' And the international community stands with us in condemning North Korean aggression and belligerent actions.
At the same time, we should separate humanitarian concerns from politics. New ROK President Park Geun-hye has launched a policy of de-linking humanitarian aid to North Korea from diplomatic developments. Previously, the U.S. has done the same, funding food aid to North Korea from 2008 to 2009. We should consider reinstating such food aid to North Korea based on demonstrated need and our ability to verify that the food will reach the intended recipients. Congress and the administration must track the delivery of aid to make sure it reaches the people who so desperately need it.
American development workers now provide humanitarian assistance in North Korea without U.S. Government assistance, giving North Koreans an opportunity to encounter the goodwill of the American people. In June 2012, a United Nations evaluation team confirmed that over 60 percent of the population continues to suffer from chronic food insecurity. Hungry people can focus only on survival and have no additional energy to direct toward bettering their lives or changing the environment or regime around them. So we must extend our hand to the North Korean people by supporting the NGO community's basic humanitarian efforts to provide lifesaving services such as supplemental school feeding, increased agricultural production, clean water, and medical assistance programs.
The humanitarian crisis is further compounded by gross human rights violations. People are trying to cross the border in search of food and then being imprisoned in forced labor camps when they are caught leaving the country. Reports indicate that approximately 138,000 people were being held in detention centers in 2011, where they are beaten, tortured, and starved. These human rights violations merit international condemnation and accountability. I urge UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay and Special Rapporteur Darusman to establish a mechanism of inquiry through the UN Human Rights Council to document these egregious human rights violations expeditiously.
I have great concerns about North Korea's political trajectory, but I believe that a broader humanitarian engagement holds a long-term promise of enhancing regional peace and security. President Park Geun-hye has taken a similar approach. I applaud her tremendous courage and welcome her visit on this historic occasion.