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 HollenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Democratic candidates are building momentum for a National Climate Bank 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 TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE's two meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim invited Trump to visit North Korea amid stalled nuclear talks: report Trump to have dinner with Otto Warmbier's parents: report Ted Lieu congratulates first Asian American cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' 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 BrownBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Senate Democrats want answers on 'dangerous' Amazon delivery system MORE (D-Ohio) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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.”