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Pyongyang’s last chance

Oct 26,2017
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea for its relentless push for nuclear and missile development and to honor an American student who died in June after having been held in prison by the ruthless regime. The “Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act” was named after a 22-year-old University of Virginia student and primarily aims to cut off North Korea’s links to the global financial system.

The act bans international financial institutions, including the World Bank, from giving aid to countries that have not complied with the UN Security Council’s sanctions on North Korea. The act allows the U.S. administration to sanction not only the international financial organizations dealing with North Korea, but also companies doing business with it. The act is aimed at completely severing North Korea’s connections to the international financial network by reinforcing the implementation of a secondary boycott the U.S. government imposed on any individuals, companies and banks of third-party countries trading with North Korea.

Our government must pay heed to the speedy passing of the act. The bill represents Uncle Sam’s determination to put maximum pressure on Pyongyang.

The landslide 412-2 passage of the act demonstrates the U.S. government’s strong determination. Even after the U.S. Congress passed new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea in July to block them from exporting oil to the North and hiring North Korean workers and the UN Security Council passed its even-tougher Resolution 2375, the Trump administration is not yet satisfied. And it is taking action with backing from Congress.

The Otto Warmbier Act zeroes in on Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea. As most of North Korea’s foreign currency comes from China, its foreign exchange reserves are expected to noticeably decrease. In that case, North Korea will have serious trouble exporting to and importing from China. As the North’s unique distribution system has already crumbled, its people are struggling to survive by buying food and other necessities on street markets across the nation.

If the act is implemented, it will cause prices of goods to soar in North Korea, not to mention the value of the Chinese yuan, which is widely used in North Korea. That will trigger chaos in street markets and could lead to a commotion. Our government must act prudently after carefully watching signs of change in the North after the passage of new sanctions by the United States. We hope that North Korea does not miss a last chance to return to a state of normalcy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 38