Bill heads to President’s desk

Washington, D.C. – Today the House passed House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) legislation to toughen sanctions on North Korea.  The legislation, North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757), now heads to the President’s desk.

On the House floor Chairman Royce spoke in support of toughening sanctions on North Korea.  Below are Chairman Royce’s remarks (as prepared for delivery): 

For three years, the Foreign Affairs Committee I chair has worked with great determination to build support for this North Korea sanctions legislation.  I want to thank my Democratic colleagues, especially Ranking Member Engel, for their support.  I also thank Senators Corker, Cardin and Gardner for their leadership in the Senate, and for their strong additions, particularly on human rights and cyber-attacks by the brutal and hostile North Korean regime.

Today, Congress — Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate — unite to put this North Korea sanctions legislation on the President’s desk.  Last month, this bill passed the House with 418 votes.  And this week, it passed the Senate 96-0.  Mr. Speaker, these overwhelming votes reflect bipartisan frustration that the U.S.’s North Korea policy — a policy of so-called “strategic patience” – isn’t working. Today, Congress unites to say it is time for a new approach.   

Mr. Speaker, last month North Korea conducted its fourth known nuclear test.  Last weekend, it conducted a long range missile test.  And on Tuesday, our Director of National Intelligence – James Clapper – testified that North Korea has restarted a Plutonium reactor and expanded production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel.   

The threat to the United States and our allies is real.  The tyrannical Kim regime has developed increasingly destructive weapons: miniaturized nuclear warheads that fit onto its most reliable missiles.  We cannot stand by any longer.

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 gained 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.  

In 2005, the Treasury Department blacklisted a small bank in Macau called Banco Delta Asia, which not only froze North Korean money in the bank but also scared away other financial institutions from dealing with Pyongyang for fear they too would also be blacklisted.  Unfortunately, this effective policy was shelved for ill-fated negotiations.  But this bill can get us back on a winning strategy. 

Equally important to the strong sanctions in this bill are its critical human rights provisions.  North Korea operates a brutal system of gulags that hold as many as 120,000 men, women, and children. If a North Korean is suspected of any kind of dissenting opinion from the Kim regime, his entire family — for three generations — is punished.  North Korea is a human rights house of horrors.

Two years ago, the 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 amended version requires the Administration to develop a strategy to promote North Korean human rights, including a list of countries that use North Korean slave labor. 

The implementation of H.R. 757 will help sever a key subsidy for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program.  For only when the North Korean leadership realizes that its criminal activities are untenable will the prospects for peace and security in Northeast Asia improve. 

Note: The bill passed the House 418-2 last month.  An amended version passed the Senate Wednesday 96-0.