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U.S. Congress passes a new bill to pressure N. Korea

Posted May. 06, 2017 08:02,   

Updated May. 06, 2017 08:25


U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed Thursday (local time) H.R.1644, the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, which aims to disconnect funding for North Korea. Congress passed the sanctions bill, which had been proposed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, by a bipartisan vote of 419 against 1 during its Thursday meeting. The Senate also plans to vote on the bill soon and it will be officially ratified upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s approval in May at the earliest.

Congress has passed the most extreme sanctions on North Korea in just a year since the previous sanctions bill on the isolated regime last year, showing its bipartisan commitment to ever-sophisticated nuclear threats from North Korea.

First, the new bill places sanctions to prohibit any sale or transfer of crude oil or petroleum products to North Korea. Though heavy oil for a humanitarian use is excluded, Congress aims to undermine North Korea’s economic fundamentals in addition to cutting off funding for nuclear and missile programs.

Furthermore, the new bill places sanctions to target companies hiring North Korean workers overseas. Congress plans to prohibit any asset sales by these corporations in U.S. territories as dollars transmitted by overseas workers are thought to be the main funding source for North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities.

To be specific, it has been estimated the influx of foreign currency from North Koreans working overseas to the North Korean government stands at slightly less than 300 million dollars a year. Except 40,000 North Koreans working in Russia and 30,000 in China, the population of North Korean workers in other countries remains small. In this context, the effectiveness of the new sanctions has been questioned in the absence of cooperation with Beijing and Moscow.

The new bill introduces the most severe sanctions ever on the third party that engages in a deal with North Korea. The current sanctions bill on North Korea, which was passed last year, states the target of sanctions ambiguously as “individual” or “institute.” However, the new sanctions bill clearly indicates it as “foreign.” It has been suggested that such statement aim at a secondary boycott on China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s offshore trade.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com · Sung-Ha Joo zsh75@donga.com