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Sen. Cardin: U.S. can’t make concessions without North Korea action

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., says that he's pleased that President Trump used diplomacy to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but now it's necessary to see North Korea implement changes to show it's serious about eliminating its nuclear weapons program. Cardin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the issue of human rights and Trump’s controversial treatment of allies at the G-7.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we now turn to the other side of the aisle.

    Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    I began by asking if he thought the summit was a success.

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    Well, Judy, we want diplomacy to win here.

    We want to end this crisis in North Korea. And the way to do it is through diplomacy. So, we want the president to be successful in gaining a way in which the Korean Peninsula will be nuclear-free.

    But we didn’t hear any specifics. And we can’t make conceptions until we get action from North Korea. They have made commitments in the past that they have not honored, so it’s very important that we see action, that we see a listing of all their nuclear facilities, all of their missile technologies, that we get inspectors on the ground, that we get a game plan to eliminate all their nuclear weapons, and that it is permanent in nature.

    An we didn’t hear any of that in Singapore. So, the president made some concessions. He gave Kim Jong Un an audience with the president. He made commitments about U.S. military maneuvers in that region. And we will see whether that will be successful to get Kim Jong Un to make the type of commitments we need to eliminate his nuclear capacity.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But just the very fact that the president met face to face with the leader of North Korea, that the two countries are not right now — don’t have this hot rhetoric going on between the leaders, that there isn’t missile testing, isn’t that a positive step?

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    Absolutely. We’re very pleased that there is the diplomacy taking place. We want the diplomacy to succeed.

    So, yes, we are very pleased that we have been able to get the two leaders to talk. What we need now is to see North Korea really implement changes to show that they’re serious about eliminating their nuclear weapons program.

    Whether the president’s allowance of this meeting and the changes he made in our military will be enough to move that along, we will see. But the judgment will come as to whether North Korea takes action.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What specific steps are you looking for?

    I mean, you’re right. The president talked about ending what he calls war games. I think the White House is now clarifying that what will continue are routine training exercises, that there is still some work to be done there. But — so what are you looking for?

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    Well, Judy, the next step should be the listing of all of North Korea’s sites on which they’re participating in their nuclear programs and also their missile technologies, an inspection of all those sites, so we know exactly where they are now, inspectors to make sure that there is no enhancement of these programs, and then serious discussions on a path to eliminate their nuclear capacity.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you didn’t expect that to come from first meeting, did you?

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    No, no, I didn’t.

    And the framework of Kim Jong Un wanting security protections in exchange for giving up his nuclear weapons was a formula that I fully supported. The question is, will Kim Jong Un now move forward seriously with the program to get rid of his nuclear weapons?

    He’s made these commitments — his government has made this commitment in the past, and have not. So I guess what I’m saying is, we will see whether this campaign strategy worked or didn’t work, but we’re pleased that we’re using diplomacy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Human rights, this is something that came up only briefly. The president said it came up, but it didn’t take very long.

    Are you comfortable with that? We head Senator Risch say, you know, we talk all the time with countries who have human rights problems we don’t approve of.

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    For the United States to have a really different relationship with North Korea, North Korea has to change its human rights record. It’s one of the worst, if not the worst country in the world.

    It’s absolutely essential that the president make it clear that, yes, we will move forward on the nuclear discussions and the ending of their nuclear program, but to have a productive relationship with the United States, progress also needs to be done on the human rights front.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    When you hear President Trump say that he feels he’s gotten to know Chairman Kim very well in a short period of time, that he trusts him, that he knows he loves his people, wants to do what’s right for them, how do you take that?

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    Judy, as I said earlier, I want diplomacy to work. So, I’m all for diplomacy.

    I think the president’s characterization here is really difficult to understand. Kim Jong Un has murdered a lot of people. His record is terrible. His reliability is not there. So I don’t know whether I would use those types of praises for Kim Jong Un.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Senator, last question about the G7 and the president’s very tough criticisms of the G7 members, pulling the U.S. out of that communique.

    Can that be explained by the fact that the president is frustrated that other countries have not done what he wanted them to do with regard to tariffs and dealing with the U.S. on trade?

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    I don’t think there’s any way to explain what the president did to our closest allies. It defies logic.

    What the president is doing is America alone. We need our allies in our mutual defense and in our national security. So I thought the performance at the G7 was just extremely dangerous to America, inviting Russia to join, after what Russia has done to us, and then blasting the prime minister of Canada.

    No, there’s no justification for that type of conduct.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Ben Cardin, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-M.D.:

    Thank you.

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