Senate to Review Any Future North Korea Arms Treaty

Senator says Iran deal circumvented constitutional treaty ratification

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets U.S. President Donald Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets U.S. President Donald Trump / Getty Images

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A future arms agreement between the United States and North Korea should be submitted to the Senate for ratification and the failure to seek advice and consent doomed Obama administration's Iran nuclear deal, a leading senator says.

Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he has discussed future Senate approval of a treaty with President Trump and his senior advisers regarding new arms talks with North Korea.

"We have been taken by the North Koreans at least a couple of times, and that's not going to happen again," Risch said in a meeting with reporters on Monday.

Senators were "deeply, deeply disappointed" by the Obama administration's failure to submit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to the Senate for debate and vote on ratification.

"We all know how that ended," he said. "I think it would have been different had we had a different role in that."

Trump in early May jettisoned the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump last year declared North Korean nuclear missiles were "unacceptable," setting off a crisis in ties that appeared to subside several months ago when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to denuclearize and to meet with Trump.

In Singapore after the summit, Trump told reporters: "I would like to involve Congress" in the denuclearization talks.

The Clinton administration in 1994 circumvented required Senate ratification for the Agreed Framework with North Korea curbing nuclear programs by asserting that agreement was not a formal treaty.

North Korea exploited the unratified accord to buy time to further develop nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Then during the George W. Bush administration, six-nation nuclear talks also were used by Pyongyang as a delaying tactic to stave off tough U.S. policies and action by appearing to sincerely negotiate limits on its nuclear programs.

North Korea continued to build its nuclear arsenal and is close to deploying a nuclear-tipped missile capable of ranging the entire United States.

As with the Clinton administration and the Agreed Framework, the Obama administration also sought to avoid a certain political battle over the Iran nuclear deal in the Senate by not calling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) a formal treaty.

Instead, Obama and his advisers added several foreign states to the accord and then sought approval by the United Nations Security Council, rather than the Senate, to codify it.

Under Article II of the Constitution, the president is granted the power to make treaties as long at two thirds of Senate approve.

Risch said the Iran nuclear deal was not in agreement with the United States because it did not undergo the treaty advice and consent process in the Senate.

The Iran deal "was an agreement between Barack Obama and the other people on the other side of that," he said.

The path to an agreement with North Korea is very specific and must go through the Senate ratification process, the senator added.

Risch is chairman of the Senate National Security Working Group, a small team of Republican and Democratic senators that among other tasks monitors treaty-related issues.

If the Senate stays under Republican majority control after the November elections, Risch is in line to become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, replacing retiring senator Bob Corker (Tenn.).

Legislation passed several years ago authorizes the Senate to send observers to formal arms talks, and Risch says plans are underway to monitor the North Korea negotiations. No Senate monitors went to Singapore.

"Our role is advisory, and then eventually consent," Risch said.

"We don't want to do anything that's going to get in the way of what they're doing," he said. "We hope we can play a very positive role as we go forward and then all get on the same sheet of music as we finalize an agreement."

The senator has visited the White House six times in the past several weeks as preparations were underway for the Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The summit ended Tuesday with a joint statement calling for follow-on talks on denuclearizing North Korea in exchange for U.S. security guarantees for the Kim regime.

The president, Vice President Pence, and John Bolton, the national security adviser, told Risch they were very open to consulting closely with senators as the North Korean arms talks go forward.

Risch said based on his discussions with Trump, Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he expects some type of formal agreement to be produced from the talks.

"They are fully on board with the constitutional responsibility of the two branches [of government]," he said. "If indeed whatever comes out of this lends itself to a treaty-type of an agreement, I fully expect that it's going to be submitted to us."

The negotiations could be completed in a relatively short period of time.

"I think this is going to be done more rapidly, at least that's the intent of the United States," Risch said.

Trump told reporters in Singapore that denuclearizing North Korea will take time but that the negotiations also could proceed quickly.

"Well, you know, scientifically, I've been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization," he said. "We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done."

Sanctions on North Korea, which have been intensified in the past year and a half of the Trump administration, will not be eased until nuclear arms "come off," the president said.

Trump said he was prepared to impose 300 more sanctions aimed at North Korea last week.

Risch said a peace treaty ending the Korean War also could be produced from the talks.

The conflict ended with an inconclusive armistice in July 1953.

Bill Gertz   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill Gertz is senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon he was a national security reporter, editor, and columnist for 27 years at the Washington Times. Bill is the author of seven books, four of which were national bestsellers. His most recent book was iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age, a look at information warfare in its many forms and the enemies that are waging it. Bill has an international reputation. Vyachaslav Trubnikov, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, once called him a “tool of the CIA” after he wrote an article exposing Russian intelligence operations in the Balkans. A senior CIA official once threatened to have a cruise missile fired at his desk after he wrote a column critical of the CIA’s analysis of China. And China’s communist government has criticized him for news reports exposing China’s weapons and missile sales to rogues states. The state-run Xinhua news agency in 2006 identified Bill as the No. 1 “anti-China expert” in the world. Bill insists he is very much pro-China—pro-Chinese people and opposed to the communist system. Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once told him: “You are drilling holes in the Pentagon and sucking out information.” His Twitter handle is @BillGertz.

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