North Korea Sanctions on Banks Approved by Senate Committee

  • Financial institutions outside the U.S. targeted by measure
  • Regime is increasingly testing missiles in defiance of UN
Trump Says N. Korea Is 'Grave Threat' to South Korea

The Senate Banking Committee Tuesday unanimously approved strengthened sanctions against North Korea over its intercontinental ballistic missile program, targeting financial institutions outside the U.S. that assist the regime.

The bipartisan legislation is “designed to exert maximum economic pressure” on North Korea and the financial institutions that assist the regime, said Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican and a cosponsor.

“The bill sends a clear message to the world that the entire U.S. government is committed to the strongest possible sanctions against North Korea,” Toomey said.

North Korea’s aggressive rhetoric and its increasing number of missile tests, in defiance of United Nations resolutions, are vexing the international community. U.S. President Donald Trump, has threatened to deal with the regime “very strongly,” saying all options, including military ones, are on the table.

The president, who is in South Korea as part of a 12-day trip to Asia, softened his tone somewhat while in Seoul Tuesday, suggesting the confrontation could be resolved through negotiations.

“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that’s good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,” Trump said at a briefing alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “I do see certain movement, yes, but let’s see what happens.”

Escalating Crisis

The crisis has escalated this year as North Korea accelerated its nuclear program. The country test fired long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles twice and claimed the entire U.S. is now in range. It also carried out its sixth nuclear test, detonating what it said was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto an ICBM.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved tougher sanctions against North Korea in August. Congress passed sanctions against North Korea earlier this year, and lawmakers say the new bill, S. 1591, is designed to fill a gap in past legislation. It includes punishing companies that knowingly, either directly or indirectly, purchase from North Korea coal and other minerals, textiles and seafood.

The new sanctions measure also requires the Trump administration to devise an overall strategy for dealing with North Korea within 90 days.

The sanctions bill also includes an amendment from Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, to address human traffickers’ access to the banking system. The legislation gives the Treasury Department a bigger role in combating trafficking and calls on a presidential task force to review how anti-money laundering efforts can be used to prevent trafficking, according to Warren.

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