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China Needs To Step Up On North Korea Crisis, Rep. Meeks Says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is on his way to Germany. Earlier this morning, he was in Poland, where he stood beside Poland's president, Andrzej Duda. And he promised to confront the threat from North Korea, quote, "very strongly."

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: President Duda and I call on all nations to confront this global threat and publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences for their very, very bad behavior.

MARTIN: But as President Trump has already realized since taking office, there are not a lot of good options for dealing with North Korea. Sanctions have been imposed to little effect. And a military strike could cost civilian lives. But some lawmakers are increasingly saying the Trump administration needs to do more. One of them is Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks of New York. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And he joins us now on the line. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

GREGORY MEEKS: Good being with you this morning.

MARTIN: What do you want the administration to do to combat the North Korean threat that it's not doing already?

MEEKS: Well, first, you know, I think that - I want to say that it's not easy. Unlike the president, when he first took the presidency said, this is - is easy. And we can't do it by ourselves. So the statements that he's making now, trying to get folks to work together, is important. And he has said, as other presidents have said, that we need China to step up.

So the question is, what do you need to do to encourage China to step up? Who are - who's the single nation that's holding up the economy of North Korea? And basically saying to the United States, and others, that they want us off of the Korean Peninsula.

MARTIN: Because...

MEEKS: So how do we deal with that? That's the...

MARTIN: ...Sanctions that have been applied on North Korea have faltered because, as you know, China has been lax and has sustained its trade with North Korea.

MEEKS: Right.

MARTIN: The U.N. ambassador to - the U.S. ambassador to the U.N, Nikki Haley, did turn up the pressure on Russia and China yesterday during a U.N. Security Council meeting. Let's listen to some of what she had to say.

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NIKKI HALEY: They have not had any care for Russia or China in this. They have not listened to anything that you've said. They're not going to listen to anything that you say. And so it's time that we all stand together and say we will not put up with this action. To sit there and oppose sanctions or to sit there and go in defiance of a new resolution means you're holding the hands of Kim Jong-un.

MARTIN: So the administration is clearly ramping up the rhetoric. But what do you - what tangible moves do you want the administration to take to pressure China in order to curb the North Korean threat?

MEEKS: So some of which they've begun to do, and that is sanction certain institutions, certain Chinese banks. You have to have an effect on China's economy and their involvement in the world order. So the G-20 summit that is going to take place, you need other nations where China is also trying to do trade deals and fill in where America has pulled out of to step up to China and say, this is, in fact, something that is a concern to all of us, not just to the United States - so that there is multilateral pressure on China to join in on a strong sanctions regime against North Korea.

MARTIN: So you're hoping that...

MEEKS: I think that...

MARTIN: ...You're hoping that comes out of the G-20. Let me ask you. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen said on CNN last night the administration should start to at least consider the option of regime change in North Korea. Do you think that's wise?

MEEKS: Well, I think that it is a danger, particularly to people in South Korea and Japan. And so any military action would be devastating to them immediately. And so we must make sure that Japan and South Korea are on board.

MARTIN: Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks of New York, thanks so much for your time this morning.

MEEKS: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.