March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the U.S. should increase the economic pressure on North Korea to force its leaders to abandon their nuclear weapons program, and sees a chance that China might support such efforts.
Royce, a California Republican, said yesterday that imposing sanctions on financial institutions such as Banco Delta Asia that the North Korean regime uses for illicit transactions could be an important tool in the effort. He spoke a day after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose its own sanctions against the Communist nation.
“What’s interesting is how much of their hard currency comes from dealing in contraband,” Royce said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “If you look at how the state receives money, it manufacturers meth and then it sells it. It sells rogue missiles that are manufactured there. It counterfeits currency.”
Royce, who is drafting his own sanctions legislation, said that during a recent trip to China and North Korea he met with Li Keqiang, China’s incoming premier. Royce said that China is “increasingly irritated” by the fact that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is threatening others in the region and potentially sparking a nuclear arms race.
If the U.S. gets tough on North Korean financial institutions, “I think China will sort of be forced to comply and in some ways will want to comply,” Royce said.
China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, drafted with the U.S. the UN resolution, which targets “illicit activity” by North Korean diplomats, bulk transfers of cash, and banks and companies funneling funds or materials to support the country’s ballistic missile and nuclear arms programs.
In response, North Korea yesterday carried out its threat to scrap the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war. The regime’s foreign ministry denounced the sanctions resolution and said the Security Council was “abused” to help carry out the “hostile policy of the U.S.,” according to a statement carried today by the official Korean Central News Agency.
In Venezuela, where elections will be held in a month to replace President Hugo Chavez after his March 5 death, Royce said the U.S. should use broadcasts from the U.S. Information Agency to undercut the front-runner to replace him, vice president Nicolas Maduro.
Before Chavez’s death, Maduro -- who is to become interim president -- lashed out at the U.S., expelling two American diplomats and accusing the U.S. and other nations of poisoning Chavez with cancer.
Royce said the goal of the U.S. information campaign should be to help Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, who lost “a quite close” election challenge to Chavez in October, rise up to the presidency.
“The problem in Venezuela is when you run against the president, he has seized all the means of communication,” Royce said. “So if other countries or broadcasting stations can broadcast in the message of the opposition to sort of balance this, this time that popular governor who just won re-election might win the election.”
On another issue, Royce said he remains supportive of the use of unmanned aerial drones in attacks on suspected members and allies of al-Qaeda overseas. He said the administration has now clearly taken “off the table” any notion of using them on American citizens on U.S. soil.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, this week held a more than 12-hour filibuster on the Senate floor, refusing to allow a vote on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until the administration made clear it wouldn’t use drones on Americans in the U.S. who aren’t engaged in combat.
A letter Attorney General Eric Holder sent to Paul on March 7 explicitly made clear the president won’t do so, Royce said.
“You have a decision out of the administration to release out of the attorney general’s office a statement that drones will not be used on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens,” he said. “And I think that perhaps takes it off the table.”
Brennan won confirmation in a 63-34 vote on March 7, and was sworn in yesterday as the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief by Vice President Joe Biden in a White House ceremony.
At a time when Congress is entering its third year of a debate over how best to curb U.S. debt, Royce said he favors returning to negotiations over a “grand bargain” to replace the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration that will have a disproportionate impact on his home state. “Everything is on the table,” including tax increases, he said, adding that the only way to get a broader deal is to see more willingness from Democrats to cut entitlement programs such as Social Security.
“It’s possible,” he said of a broad debt deal, “but we still have to move the administration in terms of real changes in entitlements.”
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