U.S. Congress slaps North Korea with more sanctions

On 04 May 2017, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly slapped more sanctions against the hermit North Korean country. In a vote 419-1, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act (H.R. 1644). This latest salvo of U.S. sanctions against North Korea which aims to thwart Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The sanctions target North Korea’s shipping industry and use of slave labor. The approved bill has now moved to the U.S. Senate, who must now approve the restrictive measures. 

Under H.R. 1644, the following restrictive measures have now been approved:

  • vessels owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it, are now barred from operating in U.S. waters or docking at U.S. ports
  • goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the U.S. 

This bill amends the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 to modify and increase the President’s authority to impose sanctions on persons in violation of certain UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea.

Further, the bill imposes the following obligations on the U.S. President:

  1. measures to deny specialized financial messaging services to U.N.-designated North Korean financial institutions
  2. foreign countries whose seaports and airports fail to inspect or seize the cargo of North Korean ships or aircraft as required by Security Council resolutions
  3. North Korea-Iran weapons and nuclear cooperation
  4. foreign government implementation of UN Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea, and
  5. whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism.

The bill also requires:

  • U.S. financial institutions to ensure that no correspondent accounts are being used by foreign financial institutions to provide financial services indirectly to North Korea.
  • the denial of certain types of U.S. foreign assistance, if and when the foreign government supplies North Korea arms and related services
  • goods produced in whole or part by North Korean labor are prohibited from entering the U.S. unless it’s determined that they were not produced with convict, forced, or indentured labor
  • the President to impose U.S. property-based sanctions on foreign persons that employ North Korean forced laborers.

It will be interesting to see whether President Trump determines that North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism. If so, the hermit country can expect more grief from  U.S. sanctions.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, poses with ASEAN foreign ministers before a working lunch at the State Department in Washington on 4 May 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

In this context, the U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson urged the foreign ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to “minimize” diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.” 

This again is another example of the ongoing efforts of the Trump Administration to further isolate North Korea from continuing to develop its nuclear weapons program. 

In pics: Accommodation for migrant workers in Qatar_Arabian Business_AFP/Getty Images

Finally, the bill also forbids the importation into the U.S. of North Korean products produced by slave labor and third-countries that use North Korean slave labors, could be subject to IEEPA type sanctions.

The bill is also insightful to the plight of North Korean workers. According to the U.S. Congress, companies from Senegal to Qatar to Angola import North Korean workers, who send their salary back to Pyongyang, earning the regime billions of dollars in hard currency each year.

According to the U.S., North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un uses this money not only to advance the hermit country’s ill conceived nuclear and missile program, but also pay his generals, i.e. to buy their loyalty. 

We can expect the typical reaction of North Korea to hold another missile test…. 

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