Flake: ‘Harsh rhetoric’ not slowing down North Korea

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said President Trump's "harsh rhetoric" toward North Korea is not going to slow the advance of their nuclear program. 

He was responding to news North Korea has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

"What we have been doing over the years has certainly not slowed the advance of their nuclear program, but I don't think that harsh rhetoric does either," Flake told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union."

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Flake, who has been critical of Trump since the presidential campaign, avoided directly saying he had confidence in the president to handle the growing crisis on the Korean peninsula.

"Obviously you like a leader that's measured, sober and consistent," he continued. "Our allies want to hear that. I think our adversaries need to hear that."

Trump has threatened "fire and fury" toward North Korea's nuclear aggression in the past, and on Sunday warned that the country's "words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States."

Flake went on to say Trump has a good "team" around him to help form the U.S. response to North Korea. He reiterated several times that whether or not he trusts Trump's response to North Korea, he thinks the president will listen to others.

"I do have good confidence in our national security team, and the president does not have experience in this kind of situation, but few presidents do when they come into office," he said. "I'm confident that the people around the president are giving him good advice and I believe he'll follow it. I sure hope he does."

The senator agreed with the president, however, that current efforts and particularly economic sanctions on Pyongyang have proven to have little effect. 

"I think given where they are, we see the limits of economic sanctions obviously on North Korea," he said.

"I think that they are moving. Certainly sanctions are not arresting that development either," he said. "So just about nothing we have done so far has helped slow it down. They seem intent on moving forward. Obviously we hope that China exercises its leverage, they have considerably more leverage than we do." 

North Korea has demonstrated its ability to launch a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent months and now says it can fit a hydrogen bomb on one.

Pyongyang also launched a missile over Japanese airspace last week, in a signal to the U.S. that the country was not backing off of its aggressive behavior despite renewed economic sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

-This post was updated at 9:39 a.m.