Senate Democrats urge diplomatic action against North Korea

A group of Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to escalate diplomatic action against North Korea following months of missile launches from the country, which have received little pushback from the administration.

“We write to express our grave concern regarding your policy and diplomacy with North Korea,” the senators write, “and to urge you to redouble efforts to forge a successful and durable path towards denuclearization of North Korea — by diplomatic means — while the opportunity still exists.”

The letter, which is signed by eight Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, presses Trump to acknowledge that North Korea’s spate of missile launches in recent months contravene United Nations Security Council resolutions. The senators urge the president to push for UN enforcement against the country. This comes as Trump has largely downplayed the missiles as not a breach of understandings he has with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Your administration has downplayed the significance of these tests and suggested that there is no rush to reach an agreement that verifiably freezes and reverses North Korea’s nuclear and missile development,” the letter says. “Accepting North Korean ballistic missile tests represents, in our view, a significant step backwards in the negotiations, especially as you yourself have previously asserted that North Korea halting all ballistic missile tests and nuclear tests was a sign of your administration’s success.”

The senators write that Trump’s ability to address North Korea’s missile testing “is vital for our national security interests, and we want to support your administration in the execution of a coherent, durable and sustainable strategy.”

While the Trump administration’s negotiations with North Korea and Kim have yielded multiple high profile meetings, the country’s continued missile tests paired with the president’s dismissive approach have sparked concerns about future relations between the two countries. Speaking to reporters last month about the missile launches, Trump said, “There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-ranged — no ballistic missile test.”

Additionally, contradictions within the administration over North Korea’s actions have escalated concerns. In June, Trump said Kim has “kept his word” when it comes to nuclear and missile testing, contradicting national security adviser John Bolton who hours earlier accused Pyongyang of failing to follow through on its commitments.

Speaking with Voice of America last month, Bolton said the U.S. hasn’t had “substantive negotiations” with North Korea since Trump’s meeting with Kim in June.

“We’re hoping those talks begin soon,” he said. “The real issue is whether North Korea will make the clear strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons and its delivery system.”

The letter also hits Trump for “calling into question” U.S. allies and the merits of combined military exercises which Democrats say are critical to “safeguard US national interests.”

“Threatening to unravel the integrity of our alliance architecture in Asia makes us less capable of dealing with North Korea, not more.”

CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Ryan Browne Maegan Vazquez and Allie Malloy contributed to this report.