Sen. Cardin calls for ‘mature’ U.S. leadership as tensions rise with North Korea

WATCH LIVE: Judy Woodruff interviews Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, about last weekend's disputed election in Turkey, the situation in North Korea and U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by PBS NewsHour on Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday that the United States needed to exercise “very mature international leadership” to de-escalate tensions with North Korea.

“Now is the time for the U.S. to exercise some very mature international leadership to try to calm things down on the Korean peninsula,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in an interview.

Tensions have flared in the weeks leading up to North Korea’s failed missile test last Sunday. Earlier this month, the White House said it sent an aircraft carrier towards North Korea, though news reports Tuesday showed the carrier group was actually headed to Australia at the time.

Speaking from the Korean peninsula’s demilitarized zone Monday during a trip to the region, Vice President Mike Pence said that “the era of strategic patience is over” between the U.S. and North Korea.

Cardin said it was in North Korea’s “interest to negotiate the end of their nuclear weapon program,” adding that China should take a “much more aggressive” approach in the negotiating process.

Cardin also touched on Sunday’s referendum in Turkey. Voters narrowly approved constitutional changes that eliminated the position of prime minister and gave President Erdogan broad new powers.

Cardin voiced concern that power in Turkey was “being consolidated by Mr. Erdogan,” though he noted that the country was a NATO ally and called it a “vibrant democracy.”

President Donald Trump congratulated Erdogan on the referendum in a phone call Monday, drawing criticism from groups that have called the vote’s legitimacy into question. Mr. Trump’s call came after the State Department expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.

Cardin said the call was a “personal decision” by Trump.

In the NewsHour interview, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also said Russia has been “very active” in meddling with upcoming elections in France and Germany.

Multiple congressional committees are investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign and associates.

Watch Sen. Ben Cardin’s full interview with Judy Woodruff on the April 18 episode of PBS NewsHour.

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