Senators introduce bill to set 'stringent' oversight of North Korea talks

Senators introduce bill to set 'stringent' oversight of North Korea talks
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan pair of senators introduced a bill Wednesday to provide “stringent” congressional oversight of any nuclear deal with North Korea.

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing GOP leader warns lawmakers on fundraising: 'Getting our ass kicked' MORE (R-Colo.) introduced the bill as the U.S. and North Korea prepare to hash out the details of a broad statement signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their historic summit in Singapore earlier this month.

“This bipartisan effort is in line with the Administration’s own goals and lays out a stringent oversight framework to support principled diplomacy to achieve denuclearization while also outlining congressional expectations for any agreement to secure, monitor, and verify the denuclearization of North Korea,” Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.

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The statement signed by Trump and Kim committed the U.S. to providing North Korea unspecified security guarantees in exchange for “the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” The statement included no details on how nuclear disarmament will be achieved, such as a timeline or steps for verification.

In his statement Wednesday, Menendez said he is concerned the Trump administration has so far not engaged in “strategic, rigorous, and thoughtful” diplomacy.

“I sincerely hope the president is able take full advantage of this historic opportunity to find a diplomatic solution to advance American national security and the security of our allies and partners,” Menendez said. “But after the administration signed a vague joint statement in Singapore without any details on a pathway forward on denuclearization, the need for congressional oversight is more evident than ever.”

Under the bill from Menendez and Gardner, who serves as chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, any agreement with North Korea would have to be submitted to Congress within five days after it is reached.

The administration would also have to submit a report describing the agreement’s verification process and assessing the ability of the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency to implement the process.

The bill does not establish a mechanism to block the agreement after it’s submitted to Congress. But it does include a nonbinding “sense of Congress” that any agreement be submitted as a treaty, which would require Senate approval.

The bill also includes a sense of Congress that U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula should not be on the table in negotiations. Trump said the troops were not up for discussion in Singapore, but that at “some point” he wants to “get our soldiers out.”

The bill would also require the secretary of State and director of national intelligence to give classified briefings to Congress after ever round of diplomatic talks, as well as to congressional staffers every month. Additionally, once every quarter while talks are ongoing, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees would hold hearings “as appropriate.”

Following the agreement’s initial submission to Congress, the bill would also require to submit a report to Congress within 90 days and every 180 days after that on North Korea’s compliance.

The bill would set U.S. policy on North Korea, saying that the United States will pursue diplomacy to achieve “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.” It would also make it U.S. policy to keep sanctions in place until North Korea takes “meaningful and verifiable” actions toward denuclearization and to not take any military action against North Korea that “is contrary to the United States Constitution and international law.”