House votes to slap stricter sanctions on North Korea

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The House easily approved legislation on Tuesday to enhance sanctions against North Korea, a week after the country claimed it detonated a hydrogen bomb.

The measure, passed 418-2, would block North Korea’s access to hard currency as well as sanction financial institutions and individuals that aid the country’s missile proliferation. Companies that send luxury goods to North Korea would also be subject to sanctions.

Under the bill, the president would be authorized to prevent any sanctioned foreign person from entering the U.S. Any entity facilitating North Korea’s policies would further be prohibited from entering into contracts with the U.S. government.  

Lawmakers said the sanctions cutting off North Korea’s access to hard currency would send a warning shot to Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship. 

“Congress must send the message to the Kim regime that they can either reform and disarm or the system can implode,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). “Without hard currency, without being able to pay the generals, that system would implode.”

Successfully testing a hydrogen bomb would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution and signal a major development for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. 

The Obama administration has disputed North Korea’s claim of detonating the bomb.

“We cannot allow North Korea to continue to be dangerous and frivolous,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They have to understand that we mean business.”

The Senate is expected to consider similar legislation in the coming weeks.

"Sen. [Cory] Gardner has been working on a North Korea sanctions bill. We anticipate it will come out of the Foreign Relations Committee very soon and I intend to schedule floor time on it shortly," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters earlier Tuesday.

Republicans are further tying North Korea’s nuclear test to implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. The House is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation to prevent the Obama administration from ending sanctions against Iranian individuals and institutions unless it certifies they aren’t involved with terrorism or its ballistic missile program.

“Whether it be North Korea or Iran, when will we learn the hard lesson that totalitarian states do not negotiate in good faith, cannot be trusted to hold up their end of the bargain, and use our goodwill and our foreign capital to keep on proliferating?” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Lawmakers of both parties have expressed outrage about Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests. Multiple House Democrats urged President Obama last week to impose “immediate, punitive” sanctions against entities involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program.

“Such aggressive and destabilizing behavior is deeply troubling,” seven Democrats wrote in a letter to Obama last week.