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Confronting the threat

May 06,2017
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed its toughest-ever bill to impose sanctions on North Korea. The bipartisan bill entitled the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act was passed in a vote of 419 to 1.

The bill strictly bans all types of oil exports — except on humanitarian grounds — and hiring of North Korean workers. The act, which clarified the scope of sanctions in further detail, is primarily aimed at cutting off China’s petroleum supplies and the very source of funds for the North.

The House has sent a stern warning to Pyongyang to not engage in further provocations after a series of ballistic missile tests and before a possible sixth nuclear test. What attracts our attention is that the new bill was jointly proposed by the Republican and Democratic Parties before being swiftly submitted to the Senate. That remarkable development reflects the seriousness shared by the Congress and the Donald Trump administration.

The U.S. government’s attempt to force China to substantially cut oil supplies to its ally has been regarded as a last resort. Actually, Beijing habitually showed a lukewarm response whenever the U.S. and United Nations made tough resolutions to levy sanctions on North Korea. But Uncle Sam has made clear his intention of strongly pressuring China to stop oil supplies through the new law to maximize the sanctions’ effect. North Korea relies on China for 90 percent of its oil.

China’s state mouthpieces have recently raised the need to reduce or even stop oil supplies to the North. Security experts expect the new act to help accelerate sanctions on the North to achieve more tangible results.

What matters most is our national security. Foreign media outlets are publishing reports speculating on a potential about-turn in our government’s hard-line policy toward the North. If such reports prove true, the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington will surely face a serious crisis. That would be a cataclysmic change way beyond China’s retaliations on South Korea for its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system.

When the international community joins hands in sanctions against the North, we can hardly take a different path as our nation’s survival is at stake. Our political parties, regardless of their ideological views, must demonstrate bipartisanship in confronting our greatest security risk. Presidential candidates must ease such worries at home and abroad before the May 9 presidential election.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 6, Page 26