U.S. to stiffen sanctions on North

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U.S. to stiffen sanctions on North

A new bipartisan legislation that aims to significantly strengthen sanctions to deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was introduced to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday as the Donald Trump administration has been tightening its North Korea policy.

The “Korea Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act” also targets those overseas who employ North Korean forced labor, a source of billions of dollars in annual revenue for the cash-strapped regime, and seeks to crack down on North Korean shipping and use of international ports.

It further requires the U.S. administration to determine whether North Korea should be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. Warning of the “growing and urgent threat to the United States” of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican of California, who introduced the bill, said in a statement that Pyongyang is using “increasingly sophisticated” tactics to evade existing sanctions.

“Networks of middlemen and banks” are succeeding in moving money, people, arms and material across borders, Royce warned, and sanctions enforcement by other nations “remains insufficient.”

Royce added, “This legislation will expand U.S. sanctions to target these companies and enablers that fund the Kim regime’s nuclear program and human rights abuses.”

He said that the Donald Trump administration “already has tools at its disposal to help counter this threat,” including the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, which he sponsored.

The bill was also sponsored by Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, a ranking minority member from New York, Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee Chairman Ted Yoho, a Republican of Florida, and Democrat Brad Sherman, a ranking minority member from California.

The bill called for enhanced inspections of ports including Dandong and Dalian “and any other port in the People’s Republic of China that the President deems appropriate,” as well as the ports of Nakhodka, Vanino, and Vladivostok in Russia. It also listed Iranian ports and the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, along with Damascus International Airport and Syrian ports.

The president also has to submit a report to a congressional committee within 90 days of the enactment of the legislation on whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism. North Korea was first designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1988 after the bombing of a South Korean passenger flight the previous year and delisted in 2008.

The legislation further called for the president to determine whether to include as designated entities Korea Shipowners’ Protection and Indemnity Association, a North Korean insurance company and Singapore corporation Chinpo Shipping Company. These companies are seen to be facilitating imports and exports of arms and related materiel to and from North Korea.

Congressman Yoho in a subcommittee hearing on “Pressuring North Korea: Evaluating Options,” pinpointed the significance of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing last week in regard to North Korea policy.

“Secretary of State Tillerson left the world’s media breathless last week when he restated that ‘all options are on the table’ regarding North Korea, implying military options,” said Yoho. “His next statement, that ‘we have many, many steps we can take before we get to that point,’ received less attention but was actually more significant.” He said that there are “many unused or incompletely implemented tools we can use before the last resort of military action.”

Yoho added the Trump administration should also start using secondary sanctions against Chinese entities that have supported the North’s weapons development, adding China accounts for 90 percent of its economic activity.

“It’s time to stop pretending that China’s North Korea policy is motivated by anything other than extreme self-interest,” he continued. “China has benefitted from undermining sanctions and tolerating North Korea’s nuclear belligerence.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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