Bipartisan lawmakers want congressional oversight of North Korea talks

Legislation calls for frequent briefings, hearings

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN
Handout via Getty Images

A handout photo shows President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their second summit meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel on Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation aimed at providing congressional oversight of the Trump administration's diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

The identical bills were introduced this week in the Senate by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and in the House by New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican.

In addition to stressing diplomacy, the legislation calls for regular briefings and hearings as well as "Member-level briefings not later than 15 legislative days after each round of senior-level diplomatic talks."

It requires the secretary of state "to submit a report to Congress assessing diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, the threat posed by North Korean nuclear and missile programs, and US efforts to exert economic pressure on North Korea, in coordination with our allies." It also reaffirms the US Force Posture on the Korean Peninsula, noting that it is not up for negotiation.

In a statement, Engel said he was "alarmed" by the administration's "lack of transparency on their policy toward North Korea." Wilson noted that the bill "makes Congressional expectations of any future agreement with Pyongyang very clear. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is more important today than ever, and Congress must ensure any future deal realizes this goal."

"The Trump Administration must execute strategic, rigorous, and thoughtful diplomacy in their dealings with Kim. This bipartisan effort lays out a clear oversight framework to support principled diplomacy to achieve denuclearization while also outlining congressional expectations for any agreement to secure, monitor, and verify the denuclearization of North Korea," Menendez said in a statement.

"While his efforts thus far have fallen short, I sincerely hope the President is able to find a diplomatic solution that advances American national security and the security of our allies and partners. But the failures of the president's policy thus far leave us without a visible pathway forward on denuclearization, making the need for Congressional oversight more necessary than ever."

The bills' introduction come as North Korea puts the onus on the United States to revive the negotiations, which have been stalled since the collapse of President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi earlier this year.

North Korea's foreign ministry spokesperson said Friday that the US was to blame for the summit's failure, according to the country's state-run media.

"The US would be well advised to wake up to reality and learn anew how to have dialogue and negotiation," the spokesperson said, warning of a "fiercer reaction" to "mistrust and hostile acts."

North Korea recently resumed test launches of weapons systems after more than a year without a confirmed test launch.

A State Department spokesperson said Friday that "the United States remains ready to engage in constructive discussions with North Korea to make progress simultaneously and in parallel towards these goals and we continue to invite our counterparts for negotiations."

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