Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) spoke today on the House floor in support of his bipartisan legislation, H.R. 757 the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, to strengthen sanctions against North Korea following its latest reported nuclear test.  In his opening remarks, Chairman Royce made clear that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal presents a direct threat to the U.S., and cannot be tolerated.  The House is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

Below is the text of Chairman Royce’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):

I appreciate Leader McCarthy working with myself and Ranking Member Engel to schedule this legislation for floor consideration.  

Last week, North Korea conducted its fourth known nuclear test.  The Kim regime has developed increasingly destructive weapons: miniaturized nuclear warheads that fit onto its most reliable missiles, and submarines capable of launching those devices.  We cannot stand by and allow North Korea to continue to build an arsenal capable of striking the U.S. 

The legislation we consider today, HR 757, is the most comprehensive North Korea sanctions legislation to come before this body.  Importantly, HR 757 uses targeted financial and economic pressure to isolate Kim Jong Un and his top officials from the assets they maintain in foreign banks, and from the hard currency that sustains their rule.

These assets are derived in part from illicit activities – like counterfeiting U.S. currency – and selling weapons around the world, and are used to advance Pyongyang’s nuclear program.  They also pay for the luxurious lifestyle of the ruling elites, and the continued repression of the North Korean people.  

A decade ago, we used financial pressure to target Macao-based Banco Delta Asia for its role in laundering money for North Korea. We cut it off from the U.S. financial system.  This led other banks in the region to shun North Korean business, financially isolating the regime.  At that time, according to one former top U.S. official, “every conversation [with the North Koreans] began and ended with the same question: ‘When do we get our money back?’”

But this pressure was lifted, prematurely, after Kim Jong il offered to make concessions on its nuclear program – concessions that, ultimately, he never followed through with. What a mistake.

Today, the Obama Administration’s policy of “strategic patience” has failed.  A year ago, it promised a “proportional response” to the massive cyberterrorist attack against the United States.  But to date, the Administration’s response has been dangerously weak. A mere 18 low-level arms dealers have been sanctioned.  Failing to respond to North Korea’s belligerence only emboldens the Kim regime. 

Disrupting North Korea’s illicit activities will place tremendous strain on that country’s ruling elite who have so brutalized the people of North Korea.  We must go after Kim Jong Un’s illicit activities like we went after organized crime in the United States: identify the network, interdict shipments, and disrupt the flow of money.  North Korea, after all, has been called a “Gangster Regime.” Well, this regime is a critical threat to our national security.  Under this bill’s framework, anyone laundering money, counterfeiting goods, smuggling, or trafficking narcotics will be subject to significant sanctions.

It is also important to remember the deplorable state of human rights in North Korea.  Two years ago, a U.N. “Commission of Inquiry” released the most comprehensive report on North Korea to date, finding that the Kim regime “has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.”  This bill requires the State Department to use this report’s findings to identify the individuals responsible for these abuses and to press for more ways in which to get information into North Korea.

Mr. Speaker, a return to the strategy of effective financial pressure on North Korea is our best bet to end North Korea’s threat to our South Korean allies, and ultimately, to the American people.