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U.S. to raise sanctions on North

House voted 419-1 for broader restrictions to end nuclear program
May 06,2017
The U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of expanding sanctions on North Korea’s cash routes Thursday in Washington, adding to President Donald Trump’s pressure on Kim Jong-un to scrap the regime’s nuclear and missile development program.

The Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, introduced on March 21 by Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was approved by a 419-1 vote.

The bill will move to the Senate for another vote before Trump decides whether to sign or veto it.

“North Korea poses an urgent threat to the United States and our allies,” Royce said upon the bill’s passage. “In less than four years, the regime may be capable of targeting the entire U.S. homeland with a nuclear missile.”

The threat from North Korea, he continued, is “real, and real threats demand real responses.” Royce said the bill would give the administration a “powerful tool” to cut off North Korea’s funding by going after those who do business with the regime.

The bill, also known as the Kims Act, cracks down on North Korea’s shipping and use of international ports; requires the Trump administration to determine whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism; targets those overseas who employ North Korean slave labor, which is a source of billions of dollars in annual revenue for the regime; and expands sanctions to deter the North’s nuclear weapons program, according to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It includes new sanctions targeting the North’s major sources of export earnings, including coal, iron, textiles, seafood, as well as entities providing petroleum or telecommunications services to North Korea. The bill also vows to strengthen penalties against countries and international ports that do not enforce UN sanctions against the North by imposing a ban on vessels from those countries from entering American waters or ports.

The South Korean government welcomed Washington’s latest move, saying Friday in a statement through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Kims Act was posed to send a “strong message” to North Korea. It will lay the groundwork for drawing North Korea’s “sincerity towards denuclearization,” the ministry added.

The passing of the bipartisan legislation comes a month after the House passed two other bills calling to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and condemning its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act of 2017, introduced in January by Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican of Texas, was passed almost unanimously with 394 votes for and one against.

Another bill condemning the North’s development of multiple ICBMs and urging Washington to apply all available economic sanctions against the regime was introduced in February by Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican of South Carolina, and passed with 398 votes for and three against.

On Thursday as the Kims Act passed the House, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted a foreign ministers meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Washington to commemorate the 40th anniversary of U.S.-Asean relations and discuss tensions on the Korean Peninsula caused by North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches, said the State Department.

The leaders “recognized the need for full implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the department said in a statement.

In Seoul, foreign ambassadors from the 15-member states of the UN Security Council were invited to Prime Minister and Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn’s office Thursday for a meeting, in which Hwang stressed their countries to play an “active role” against North Korean provocations.

North Korea fired nine ballistic missiles in six different tests this year, the most recent on April 29, nearly 12 hours before a U.S. Navy strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson was to enter South Korea’s East Sea for joint military drills with the South Korean Navy. Signs of a sixth atomic test have lingered for months.

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., a North Korean expert, wrote on the website 38 North Thursday that commercial satellite imagery of a shipyard in North Korea’s eastern port city of Sinpo in Hamgyong Province showed “new activity” at a missile test stand. It could mean the North is preparing to fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile, though the images were of insufficient resolution to determine whether that was the case, Bermudez wrote.

"Visible are a heavy-lift crane with its stabilizer legs deployed and boom extended over the test stand’s service tower," said Bermudez, “and a 13-meter-long [43 foot] flatbed truck adjacent to it on the access road.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]