Congress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions

Congress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions
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Congress is moving toward slapping stricter sanctions on North Korea as diplomatic efforts flounder.

The sanctions, which aim to plug what Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war MORE (D-Md.) described as a “leaking” sanctions regime, were added as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that passed the Senate on Thursday.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act does not contain the sanctions, but sponsors of the provision are confident it will survive bicameral negotiations based on conversations with House members.

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“We’ve seen two summits — we had the Singapore summit and the Hanoi summit — and we held off on pushing the legislation during those negotiations, but now that they’ve fallen apart, we thought it was important to take this next step,” Van Hollen said Thursday about President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE's two meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOvernight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' Erdoğan should receive the wrath of the US, not its embrace MORE.

Van Hollen was speaking at a news conference touting the sanctions alongside fellow co-sponsors Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Warren, Brown press IRS on study reviewing Free File program Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (D-Ohio) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (R-Ohio).

The bill is called the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act, after the student who died after being returned from North Korean detention in a coma. Its sanctions are modeled after ones against Iran in 2010 and 2012 credited with bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.

Supporters say the bill, which would impose secondary sanctions on financial entities doing business with North Korea, is necessary to target those helping Pyongyang evade existing sanctions. The secondary sanctions are expected to particularly hit Chinese banks.

“They would present Chinese banks with a very simple choice: You can do business with the United States or you can do business with North Korea, but you can’t do both,” Toomey said.

Trump’s Hanoi summit with Kim in February ended without a deal after differences in what the United States and North Korea were willing to give on sanctions relief and denuclearization, respectively.

In the following months, talks appeared to be at a standstill, and North Korea tested several short-range missiles. But more recently, Trump and Kim have started to exchange flattering letters again, with Trump saying this week that Kim recently sent him a birthday greeting.

Trump is scheduled to visit South Korea following his current trip to Japan for the Group of 20 summit. The White House has said there are no plans for Trump and Kim to meet while Trump is on the Korean Peninsula.

In March, Trump also said he did not think new North Korea sanctions were necessary, saying he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Kim.

On Thursday, Toomey insisted the Trump administration is behind Congress’s latest effort at North Korea sanctions.

“I’m not aware of any resistance from the administration,” he said. “As I said, this is no surprise to the administration. We’ve worked with administration officials, and I think they welcome tightening the screws on North Korea. They recognize the need for that.”