In the wake of North Korea’s claim of successfully testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry pushed back Thursday against Republican critics who’ve accused the Obama administration of ignoring the threat of a nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
“That premise is absolutely inaccurate. It’s without foundation,” Mr. Kerry told reporters in Washington, asserting that he and other U.S. officials have engaged in “constant consultations” with their international counterparts toward containing North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But Mr. Kerry also acknowledged that the administration’s approach has failed. He said that on his first trip to China as secretary of state in April 2013, most of his meetings with Chinese officials were focused on the North Korean threat.
“China had a particular approach that it wanted to make, and we agreed and respected to give them space to be able to implement that,” Mr. Kerry said. “Today in my conversation with the Chinese, I made it very clear that has not worked and we cannot continue business as usual.”
When asked by a reporter whether the administration’s current policy is to pressure the Chinese to step up its pressure on North Korea, the secretary of state responded, “It’s time for everybody to make sure that this does not continue as business as usual.”
His remarks came a day after Pyongyang claimed to have carried out a hydrogen bomb test — a development that exposed President Obama to fresh criticism from Republicans, who said the North’s declaration was in part a reflection of declining fear that Washington would retaliate in a serious way.
Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that if North Korea’s claim is found to be legitimate, it would serve “as a sober reminder that ignoring this threat and hoping it will go away does not constitute a policy.”
“The past several decades of U.S. policy toward North Korea has been an abject failure, and the United States — together with our allies and others in the region — must take a more assertive role in addressing North Korea’s provocation,” Mr. Corker said.
Others went further.
“This underscores the gravity of the threats we are facing right now, and also the sheer folly of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and presidential hopeful, told reporters at an Iowa campaign stop Wednesday.
Fellow GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush said the test reflected the “feckless” foreign policy of Mr. Obama and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton — the Obama administration’s former secretary of state.
While there was confusion over exactly what the North Koreans detonated Wednesday, analysts generally agreed the preliminary evidence suggested the regime had carried out what would be its fourth significant nuclear test since 2006.