House passes North Korea sanctions
The House passed legislation on Tuesday that seeks to cut off North Korea’s access to financial institutions around the world amid its nuclear provocations.
The measure, passed 415-2, would direct the Treasury Department to ban U.S. financial institutions from engaging in transactions that benefit people or entities associated with the North Korean government.
It would also authorize cutting off financial assistance to foreign governments that knowingly fail to prevent transactions that benefit the North Korean regime.
“It’s time for those banks to choose between aiding and abetting the North Korean government or standing for peace with America and its allies,” Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), the author of the bill, said during House floor debate.
Barr said that existing sanctions on North Korea from the U.S. and other allied countries currently don’t go far enough in fully eliminating the isolated nation’s access to financial systems.
“Foreign banks can either do business benefiting North Korea or business with the United States. They cannot do both,” he said.
The legislation is named after Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was arrested and imprisoned while visiting North Korea in 2016.
Warmbier suffered a neurological injury due to a still-unknown cause and went into a coma. He died shortly after his return to the U.S. in June, following almost a year and a half in captivity.
The bipartisan sanctions legislation that President Trump signed into law in August established sanctions targeting North Korea’s shipping industry and people who use slave labor. That package also included new sanctions on Russia and limited Trump’s ability to lift them without congressional approval.
The House is also expected to consider legislation on Wednesday that would impose new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. Consideration will come after Trump announced earlier this month that he would not certify that Iran is complying with the international accord to curb the country’s nuclear program.
Congress has 60 days to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the Iran nuclear deal. For now, however, the House is only considering non-nuclear sanctions.