Fecteau: An Embargo Against North Korea

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


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Otto Warmbier

The United States should impose an embargo against North Korea similar to the one against Cuba. While I oppose the embargo against Cuba, an embargo against North Korea would be much different. The United States has successfully restricted most American travel to the Caribbean island for decades; unfortunately, it failed to trigger regime change or influence its behavior — the original intent. The intention of the embargo I am proposing against North Korea would be to stem the tide of Americans traveling to the hermit country, not regime change. 

This is especially relevant after the tragic death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier formerly held in North Korean custody. Mr. Warmbier’s alleged crimes were infinitesimal, but he paid a cruel price. In a kangaroo court, the North Korean government convicted Mr. Warmbier of “hostile acts” when he tore down a propaganda poster and condemned him to 15 years of hard labor. He was held in North Korea for 17 months falling into a coma before the government finally released him on humanitarian grounds. Sadly, he recently died on American soil as a result of the harsh treatment in North Korea. 

This cannot keep happening as this is one of many cases where the North Korean government simply detains American citizens for its own demented agenda. Each year, hundreds of Americans travel to the East Asian country in search of adventure, putting American national-security interests in peril. Currently, the Kim Jong-Un-led North Korean government has three Americans in long-term detention for miscellaneous, inordinate charges. 

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North Korea

The North Korean government generally detains Americans on excessive charges. It holds them in subhuman conditions for months or even years, often isolated in labor camps with few breaks, little food, and water. This normally requires the intervention of a high-level American government official such as President Bill Clinton to obtain their release. 

The United States has a duty to keep itself out of an untenable position, especially with nuclear weapons involved. The North Korean government wants any leverage possible in its nuclear confrontation with the United States, particularly American citizens, to use them as pawns. 

American travelers need to be deterred from going to North Korea, and any American found in violation of the respective embargo I am proposing should face a stiff financial penalty or even prison time. This isn’t just about their safety; this is also to ensure North Korea doesn’t attempt to extort the United States by holding our citizens as hostages or as human shields. 

We cannot allow Americans to keep traveling to North Korea un-penalized. They are not only gambling with their lives; they are also becoming bargaining chips in a potential nuclear confrontation.   

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Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau


Related Slideshow: RI Democrats React to Trump Withdrawing from Paris Climate Agreement

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Gina Raimondo

RI Governor

I am deeply disappointed that the President has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that the Paris Agreement is about so much more than climate change. It’s about opportunity, stewardship and America’s standing as a global leader. 

President Trump’s action will not deter Rhode Island from taking necessary steps to address climate change. Our action at the state level will create new jobs and attract new investment in the green economy. 

We’ve set a goal to secure 1,000 MW of clean energy resources and double the number of clean energy jobs by 2020. Ocean State families and businesses are on the front lines fighting climate change. I will continue toward with the General Assembly and partners in other states to protect our environment and advance clean energy alternatives, while creating new opportunities for our workforce in the process. 

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Jim Langevin 

U.S. Congressman

President Trump’s ill-considered decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement puts the future of our entire planet at risk. The withdrawal represents an abandonment of pledges to protect our environment and risks undermining the entire accord, which includes nearly every country on earth. In addition, the President’s action cedes Unites States leadership and means losing a seat at the table to negotiate global agreements in our country's best interest.

The Obama Administration made significant progress toward slowing the rapidly warming climate by negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions on a global scale. Unwinding these commitments represents another assault by President Trump on the health of the public and the planet. His Administration continues to deny climate change despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows this is an ongoing human-caused crisis.

Rhode Island is on the front lines of sea level rise, and our citizens will ultimately pay the price for inaction today. Communities like my hometown of Warwick are particularly vulnerable to the storms and floods that come with climate change. Warming seas have chased our traditional catch out of our fisheries and threaten to decimate our beloved Ocean State coastline. Abandoning the Paris deal, the culmination of a multi-year effort by world leaders, is an abdication of our responsibility to leave the world a better place for our children.”

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Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator

“Donald Trump and his children said just a few years ago that climate change was ‘irrefutable’ and its consequences ‘catastrophic and irreversible.’ They were right. There is no denying the growing threat of rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. 

But we can still avoid the worst if we quickly reduce carbon emissions. That is why ignoring reality and leaving the Paris Agreement could do down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip. 

Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation. It’s Sad. 

America’s biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President’s grave defects. 

If you haven’t joined an environmental group, join one. If your voice needs to be heard, get active. If you are a big corporation with good climate policies that has shied away from engaging politically, it’s time to engage. And if you’re a university that teaches climate science, it’s time to stand up for your scientists. Whoever you are, help end climate denial and take action.”

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Jack Reed

U.S. Senator

“President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement is a blow to the environment that makes us a less secure nation. Our military, which spends every hour of every day thinking about how to protect Americans says climate change is a problem and a real threat multiplier. Indeed, climate change is an established part of the military’s threat and risk assessments.

The United States should continue to be a leader when it comes to protecting the planet; instead, the President is abdicating this responsibility. President Trump is unwisely putting the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua in declining to be part of the Paris agreement. 

The American people deserve better.” 

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David Cicilline

U.S. Congressman

The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a terrible mistake. It will diminish American leadership in the world, undermine our ability to create good-paying jobs, and contribute to the further degradation of our environment. 

It is very disappointing that we now know, without question, that the President of the United Sates is a climate change denier. His decision today ignores the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the serious consequences failing to address climate change. 

The only thing President Trump will accomplish by this decision is to set the United States and world back decades in this fight. I have no doubt that future generations are going to wonder what the hell we were thinking today”


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