The Senate Banking Committee convenes to unanimously approve further sanctions against North Korea. (Photo by Matt Holt)
By: Matt Holt
WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved sanctions against North Korea, taking aim at financial institutions that assist Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“This bill sends a clear message to the world that the entire U.S. government is committed to the strongest possible sanctions against North Korea,” said Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), a cosponsor of the bill.
The Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act targets foreign banks, including China and elsewhere in the world, on the eve of President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Beijing.
The bill was named after an American student who died earlier this year after being imprisoned in North Korea, escalating the already strong tensions between the two countries. It targets companies, bank accounts, and other private businesses used by the North Korean government to finance their military operations.
The bill will also require Congress to review the effectiveness of the sanctions, and allow states and local municipalities to divest from any corporations or firms that are involved with the regime.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the ranking member of the committee, praised the bipartisan effort to hinder North Korea’s escalating aggression.
“Members of the committee have over a number of months, and over a bipartisan basis, forwarded legislation that cuts to the heart of the North Korea regime,” Brown said. “By targeting economic resources that Pyongyang elites crave and that Kim Jong Un needs to stay in power to achieve his nuclear ambitions, we remain deeply concerned about North Korea’s advancing nuclear capability and advanced technologies to deliver these weapons of mass destruction.”
An amendment to the bill authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) included provisions to hinder human trafficking offenses committed by North Korea.
“[Human] traffickers make over a $150 billion dollars every year in illegal profits,” Warren said. “But human traffickers aren’t hiding those profits under the mattress. Access to the banking system is crucial to these traffickers, and it has to stop.”
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-ID), said that the government is just “starting to apply the pressure that can have an actual impact.”
“No matter how strong our sanctions may be, their still just one tool in the toolbox in dealing with North Korea,” he said. He went on to urge the Trump administration to take further action against Kim Jong Un’s government.
“I’m troubled by the disjointed efforts and the contradictory messages coming out of different part of the administration,” he said. “I think it’s essential that we have a coherent, comprehensive strategy guiding our efforts on this.”