Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives began consideration of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act (H.R. 1644).  The bipartisan bill strengthens sanctions targeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un regime.

On the House floor, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

I want to begin by thanking the co-author of this bill, Ranking Member Engel, for his work on this legislation and for his steadfast leadership on addressing this threat to U.S. national security.

Mr. Speaker – North Korea does in fact pose an immediate threat to the national security of the United States and our allies.  Experts believe that in less than four years, Pyongyang may have the ability to target the United States with a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile, one topped by a nuclear warhead. 

The quick speed with which North Korea’s program is advancing is a “game changer” for our national security. It is no wonder that former President Obama – after years of practicing a failed policy of “strategic patience” – warned President Trump that North Korea would be the top threat to the United States. 

North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests and launched a record 26 ballistic missiles in 2016 alone – including one from a submarine.  In all, Kim Jong Un has test-fired at least 49 missiles since 2015. 

Alarmingly, with every test, North Korea gains valuable technical knowledge that has enabled it to make significant improvements to its developing arsenal. Pyongyang is marching towards the day when it will have the capability of striking all 50 states with an ICBM. As we have been reminded the “I” in that acronym stands for “intercontinental.”  More immediately, these missiles gravely threaten our allies South Korea and Japan, and the tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen serving in those countries.  

North Korea has been a major proliferator – cooperating on its nuclear and missile programs with the likes of Iran, Syria, and Pakistan – undermining U.S. security along with the entire global counter-proliferation system.  We can only guess the extent of the damage that is being done through illicit, undetected networks.    

Mr. Speaker, Congress has a chance to put North Korea policy on firmer ground.

H.R. 1644, the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, is a response to this immediate threat.  The legislation builds upon the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act a bill signed into law last Congress. With this law, the United States designated North Korea as a “primary money laundering concern” – crimping their access to cash – and found Kim Jong-un and his top lieutenants responsible for grave human rights abuses. Indeed, the Economist once accurately described North Korea as a “gulag masquerading as a country.”

But at the same time, North Korea has worked over the past year to evade international sanctions with the help of a vast network of front companies and governments that span the globe. Those who do business with North Korea provide it with money to fund the regime’s nuclear program and its grotesque human rights abuses – and they must be stopped.

H.R. 1644 does this by expanding sanctions to deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program and to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions.  And let’s be clear, these are international commitments that all nations are obliged to honor, including China.

It targets those who employ North Korean slave labor overseas. Companies from Senegal to Qatar to Angola import these North Korean workers, who promptly send their salary back to Pyongyang, earning the regime billions of dollars in hard currency each year

This is money that Kim Jong-un uses to advance his nuclear and missile program, and also pay his generals, buying their loyalty to his brutal regime.  That is what the high-level defectors that I meet with say.  So let’s squeeze his purse.   

It cracks down on North Korean shipping and use of international ports, restricting the regime’s ability to ship weapons and other banned goods.

And when we discover that foreign banks have helped Kim Jong-un skirt sanctions – as those in China have repeatedly done – we must give those banks and businesses a stark choice: do business with Kim Jong-un or the U.S. As we have heard from the new Administration – this is a key focus of theirs.  

Mr. Speaker, this legislation gives the administration powerful new tools to protect the United States and our allies from the threat of North Korean nuclear missiles by going after those who enable the regime’s aggression.  This shows the world that Congress stands ready to help the Administration work with our allies and others to counter North Korea’s belligerent behavior, and maintain peace and stability in northeast Asia. 

I urge my colleagues to vote YES on H.R. 1644.”