Sen. David Perdue: Trump's North Korea policy is succeeding

CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was an important step to lay the groundwork for the upcoming meeting planned between President Trump and Kim.

I fully support President Trump’s decision to hold this important meeting. Our president has established what was missing from U.S. policy toward North Korea for years: Credibility for the threat of use of force. Without that credibility, our diplomatic efforts have no teeth.

Thanks to President Trump’s firm stand in support of sanctions against North Korea, that nation’s rogue regime’s back is against the wall and it appears Kim is beginning to recognize the weakness of his position. We have a real opportunity for dialogue with North Korea as a result.

I just returned from China and South Korea, places I lived and worked throughout my previous business career. President Trump’s tough rhetoric and strong stance on North Korea were praised in both China and South Korea.

Within a 24-hour period during my trip, I looked into North Korea from two different perspectives.

First, in Dandong, China, we stood on the Broken Bridge, a relic of the Korean War. A few yards away was the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, which Kim’s train crossed a few days before our visit on his trip to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The next day we were at the demilitarized zone, north of Seoul, facing North Korean troops on the border and staring at bullet holes from last November’s defection of a North Korean soldier.

In many of our meetings with U.S. diplomatic personnel, Chinese and Korean officials, and even North Korean defectors there was a common message: President Trump’s sanctions are working.

The entire charm offensive North Korea has been on as of late is the direct result of unprecedented economic and political pressure brought about due to President Trump. That was evident when we arrived in Beijing: our visit coincided with Kim’s first official trip out of the country to meet with President Xi.

At the end of our trip the United Nations announced it was blacklisting dozens of ships and shipping companies over North Korea’s oil and coal smuggling. That action followed a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions last year targeting North Korean forced labor and cutting off key exports from the North.

These are positive steps. We also recognized other positive steps on our trip. We thanked China for its backing at the Security Council and for its improved enforcement efforts regarding North Korea sanctions.

We also thanked South Korea for its support of President Trump’s maximum pressure approach.

And we also carried a clear message: in America, we are all aligned in our firm resolve to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

China is improving its enforcement efforts for the economic sanctions on North Korea and has provided more support at the U.N., but more can still be done.

China should further cut oil sales and transfers to North Korea. China should also increase efforts to halt ship-to-ship transfers of coal and seafood to and from North Korea.

Together, we should also look for additional actions at the U.N. to sanction North Korea’s state-run airline, Air Koryo, which Kim’s regime has used to skirt sanctions on jet fuel.

When we met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, he described Kim’s situation with a Korean proverb: Kim is riding the back of a tiger. Riding a tiger’s back is dangerous, but it is even scarier to face the tiger when you dismount.

Moving forward, we must remember what got us to this point: President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign. We should recognize and act on the additional efforts to keep up the pressure. The U.S. Senate should also move swiftly to confirm Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, given the critical talks at hand.

Ahead of the proposed meeting between Kim and President Trump, which the president said will likely take place in June, America will do its part. The international community must do the same to achieve the best possible outcome. With China’s cooperation and the support of the international community, we will denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.