Gardner Straps In For More “Maximum Pressure”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

CNN, here we go again:

“I can confirm that US and (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) officials plan to meet within the next week. I do not have further details to share on the meeting,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Tuesday.

The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, will lead the US side of the working-level talks with North Korea, according to a State Department official.

Negotiations on denuclearization have stalled since February, when President Donald Trump cut short his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. Trump left the meeting with no joint agreement after Kim insisted all US sanctions be lifted on his country.

The last time the two leaders met was in June in the Korean Demilitarized Zone where they agreed to revive staff-level talks.

North Korea, like American relations with Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, and any number of other flashpoints around the world, is a subject on which Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has been obliged to tread very carefully since Donald Trump took office. Coming from a hayseed congressional district and the state legislature of a landlocked state, Gardner has worked hard to upgrade his international diplomacy credentials serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gardner repeatedly chastised Trump’s Democratic predecessor for perceived weakness in relations with traditional American adversaries Russia and North Korea in particular.

Trump’s erratic on-again-off-again engagement with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, as well as the interference by Russia in the 2016 elections to help Trump win, has left Gardner’s hawkishness toward both countries in a very awkward position. Gardner denounces “Russian meddling” when he’s forced to, but without admitting on whose behalf the Russians meddled and why–obvious realities Gardner is politically unable to acknowledge. On North Korea, Gardner has been left to spin events he has no influence over after the fact as best he can, without breaking the cardinal rule of never saying anything on the record that could make Trump mad. Because the moment Trump’s Tweets of love for Gardner turn into nastygrams, Gardner loses his Republican base.

With all of this in mind, stay tuned for the results of this latest round of bilateral negotiations elevating the “Hermit Kingdom” to parity with the world’s greatest superpower! Gardner will be tuned in, too–and with former National Security Adviser John Bolton freshly trashing Trump on North Korea while boosting Gardner’s re-election campaign, we’ll be watching to see how Gardner manages to thread this rhetorical needle.

You know, along with all the others.

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