U.S. Senate gives okay to sanctions on three nationsThe U.S. Senate passed a sweeping package of sanctions against North Korea, Russia and Iran on Thursday, tackling crude oil exports to Pyongyang, North Korean cargo and shipping, as well as goods produced by the regime using forced labor.
The Senate voted 98-2 in support of the legislation, referred to as the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act,” which encompasses the “Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act” on Pyongyang. On Tuesday, the bill passed the House 419-3.
President Donald Trump will have 10 days to decide whether to pass or veto it. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quoted by foreign media as saying that Trump would “review” the sanctions bill, without detailing any further.
The bill gives Congress new powers to block Trump from unilaterally easing sanctions on Moscow, which leaves open the possibility he may veto it.
The bill penalizes anyone who “knowingly, directly or indirectly, engaged in, facilitated, or was responsible for the online commercial activities” of the North Korean government, including online gambling, and authorizes sanctions against North Korea’s overseas forced labor and slavery.
Other clauses include blocking the transfer of bulk cash, precious metals and gemstones to or from North Korea, as well as crude oil, petroleum, petroleum byproducts and other natural gas resources, with some exceptions for humanitarian uses.
The passing of the legislation came nearly three weeks after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4, which it claimed succeeded. The regime said the ICBM launch was a “package of gifts” to Americans on their Independence Day and that it had no intention of discussing its nuclear weapons or ballistic missile programs unless Washington’s hostile policy and nuclear threats are “definitely terminated.”
Shortly after the launch, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged other countries to take firm action against North Korea, saying any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.
Washington is currently pushing for new sanctions in the UN Security Council, while also considering the possibility of secondary sanctions on Chinese entities.
Meanwhile, Tillerson and South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a telephone conversation Thursday night, Seoul time, to reinforce the bilateral alliance, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauret said in a briefing.
The leaders agreed to continue their close coordination in response to North Korea’s “destabilizing violations” of the UN resolutions and hold North Korea accountable for its unlawful actions, adding they reaffirmed their joint commitment to a “stable, peaceful and denuclearized” Korean Peninsula.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]