The U.S. House of Representatives voted almost unanimously to approve legislation aimed at placing increased sanctions on North Korea, as part of a larger effort to curb the nation’s nuclear ambitions.  These new sanctions target North Korea’s shipping industry and third party companies that do business with Kim’s regime.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 419-1, also calls on the Trump administration to report to Congress within 90 days with a determination as to whether or not North Korea is to be added once again to the government’s state sponsors of terror list.  Adding that designation would further tighten restrictions placed on the reclusive state as well as on foreign aid provided by the United States.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the committee’s senior Democrat, must now go to the Senate for approval.

The bill aims to bar North Korean ships, as well as ships from nations that refuse to comply with UN resolutions regarding North Korea, from operating in U.S. waters or docking in any American port.  Goods produced by forced labor in North Korea would also be banned from entering the United States via any other means.

The legislation also targets other nations that benefit from North Korean slave labor, subjecting them to sanctions as well.  Companies in Senegal, Qatar, and Angola were among those listed as utilizing North Korean labor.  Citizens from North Korea travel to work in these nations only to send their wages back to the North Korean government, a process that earns Kim’s regime billions of dollars per year.

“This is money that Kim Jong-un uses to advance his nuclear and missile program, and also pay his generals, buying their loyalty to his brutal regime,” Ed Royce said. “That is what the high-level defectors that I meet with say.  So let’s squeeze his purse.”

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“We found out 2005, when we sanctioned North Korea and 11 Chinese banks at that time, that we shut down their weapons program because they didn’t even have the money to pay their generals.  Remember, if we shut down their economy, they can’t go forward with their program,” Royce continued.  “This legislation builds on a bill of mine from last year that will give the President of the United States every tool now to do exactly that.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated in response that China opposes individual nations using domestic laws to impose unilateral sanctions against the North Korean state.  China, North Korea’s largest and most powerful ally, has stated that they intend to apply increasing pressure on Kim’s regime in order to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and that they will rigidly enforce sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

North Korea attempted yet another ballistic missile launch last weekend, which was met with the fourth failure this year.  Of the six attempted tests in 2017, all but one has suffered a failure at some level, with four exploding within miles of launch.  The North Korean government has issued a number of statements indicating that they would not be deterred in their pursuit of nuclear weapons on the necessary platforms needed to engage long distance targets, going so far as to refer to their weapons program as needed for the “existence and development” of the country and that their intent “can never be changed nor shaken.”

 

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