Senators Affirm Commitment to South Korea

Democrats and Republicans agreed on Sunday that the United States should stand strong in their alliance with embattled South Korea.

While joint American-South Korean military exercises commenced off the Korean Peninsula today in response to North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island near the demilitarized zone last week, American lawmakers offered their views on several of the Sunday morning talk shows.

On Meet the Press, both Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, a senior Democrat, and Jon Kyl of Arizona, minority whip, affirmed America’s commitment to South Korea’s security. According to Durbin, the two parties agree that the country must “stand strong in [its] alliance with South Korea.”

According to Senator John McCain of Arizona, the latest confrontation in Korea is evidence of the failure of a policy of appeasement. Billions in foreign aid and repeated concessions to the regime have not changed its behavior. “The North Koreans’ only cling is their nuclear capability,” he professed on CNN’s State of the Union.

They key to resolving the situation is China, said McCain. As North Korea keeps inventing crises in order to legitimize its destructive regime, Beijing will eventually run out of excuses not to penalize its fellow communist state. So far though, “China is not behaving as a responsible world power,” according to Senator McCain. It has urged restraint and recommended to resume negotiations with the powers involved but what is needed, he added, are “significant penalties” from the Chinese side.

Since China is pursuing a more independent foreign policy, it may be difficult to win their support for sanctions however. McCain suggested “adjustments to [American] policy with regard to China” but unless that manages to shift their position, he said, “I think it’s time we talk about regime change in North Korea.”

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who, like McCain, is a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also suggested to push China, hard. “I’m looking at China to step up their game against North Korea and try to bring them in the fold of a peaceful nation,” he said on Fox News Sunday. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat, agreed. “This is brazen and it’s belligerent and it’s something that I believe that all of those six countries, all of the people in the six party talks need to get to work on,” she said on the same program.

Since 2003, China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas have been engaged in six party talks to try to prevent North Korea from attaining a nuclear weapons capacity. Although the parties agreed on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula years ago, the talks have produced few concrete results. North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons, according to the United States, and has tested ballistic missiles that could deliver them.

Russia’s role is not to be underestimating, according to Senator McCaskill, “which is why the START treaty is also important here.” Republicans in the Senate have been postponing ratification of the latest nuclear arms reduction treaty between Russia and the United States which the administration fears is threatening its “reset” of American-Russian relations.