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Springfield Republican: US Sen. Ed Markey urges Trump administration to talk with North Korea, tighten sanctions

By Shannon Young
syoung@repub.com

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey on Tuesday lauded reports that North Korea is open to talking with the United States about ending its nuclear program, but called on the Trump administration to tighten sanctions against the country and appoint key diplomatic positions before engaging in any such negotiations.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who has repeatedly urged the White House to take a diplomatic approach in the region, said while he sees the potential talks with North Korea as a “positive,” they represent just the beginning of a possibly long and challenging process of getting Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program.

Markey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia sub-panel, urged the Trump administration to keep pressuring North Korea to denuclearize through sanctions and fill Korean peninsula State Department vacancies in addition to partaking in any talks.

Although the senator contended that “direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea are the only feasible way to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” he acknowledged that there are many unanswered questions about how those talks could go.

Markey argued that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “must abide by any agreement to halt nuclear and missile test while engaged in any U.S. talks.” The United States, meanwhile, should continue with its joint military training exercises with allies in the region despite North Korea’s reported pledge to not attack South Korea, he said.

“Given the history of deals with North Korea over testing moratoriums, we must expect North Korea to find ways to circumvent any deal, so we need to keep maintaining pressure, including by cutting off North Korea’s access to crude oil and remaining sources of revenue,” he said in a statement. “The Trump administration also must take immediate steps to nominate or fill key State Department positions in support of its diplomatic efforts.”

They include a special representative for North Korea, a U.S. ambassador to South Korea, a special envoy for North Korean human rights issues and a sanctions coordinator, Markey offered.

“The president must identify a serious professional with extensive diplomatic experience, first-hand knowledge of the North Korean threat and credibility with our partners in South Korea,” he said. “Anything short of this competency and commitment to diplomacy will raise questions about U.S. intentions to solve this problem.”

The Massachusetts Democrat’s remarks came amid reports that North Korea’s leader told a South Korean envoy that he’s willing to negotiate with the U.S. on giving up the country’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees, and would suspend missile tests during such talks.

North and South Korean leaders agreed to hold a summit meeting on their countries’ border in April,the New York Times reported.

Trump, who previously called the North Korean leader “rocket man,” suggested that although such reports “may be false hope,” the United States “is ready to go hard in either direction!”