Senate sanctions bill will target North Korea and its 'enablers'
© Greg Nash

Two senators are preparing new penalties targeting North Korea's missile program in the wake of Pyongyang's first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will introduce a new sanctions bill "in the coming weeks" to help "exert maximum pressure ... on North Korea and its enablers," according to a memo from both of their offices.

"Ultimately, this sanctions regime is intended to compel North Korea to engage in denuclearization talks by cutting off its remaining access to the international financial system. The senators believe this bipartisan legislation stands the best chance to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program," their offices said. 

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The bill will include sanctions against financial entities that do business with the North Korean government, a move that could rile the Chinese government, which has warned against targeting Chinese banks in the wake of the missile test. 

"The bill is designed to offer foreign banks, specifically Chinese banks, with a stark choice: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system," the two Senate offices said.

The measure would also include a waiver letting President Trump suspend or nix sanctions if North Korea meets a series of guidelines including "significant and verifiable progress" toward ending its weapons of mass destruction program, ending missile tests and returning U.S. citizens and residents abducted by the North Korean government. 

The new sanctions bill comes as Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend to discuss North Korea and other issues. 

Both lawmakers and Trump have urged Beijing, which is North Korea’s major food and fuel provider, to take a tougher stance with the isolated country even before the recent missile launch. 

Trump said Thursday while traveling in Poland that North Korea is behaving dangerously and warned of possible “severe” consequences.

Zhu Guangyao, China's vice minister of finance, said earlier this week that "the U.S. should not use their domestic laws as excuses to levy sanctions against Chinese financial institutions," according to Reuters.

The Senate passed a North Korea sanctions bill last year, while the House passed a bill earlier this year to impose new penalties.