- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks on the House floor in support of the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act (H.R. 1644):
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in strong support of this legislation and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Let me start by thanking our Chairman on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce of California. His personal commitment to this important issue is reflected by his long track record and leadership in crafting the legislation before us today.
“We have had innumerable talks about North Korea and the threat through the years. And Ed Royce has always been there at the forefront in this very important issue.
“I’m proud to be the lead Democratic cosponsor of the bill. We stand on the floor today speaking in a unified, bipartisan voice about the threat that North Korea and the Kim regime pose to the United States, to our friends and allies, and to peace and stability across the globe.
“Already, Mr. Speaker, North Korea poses a potentially catastrophic danger to our closest allies in Northeast Asia: Japan and South Korea. And with each passing day, the reclusive regime in Pyongyang continues to make progress on nuclear and ballistic missile technology that could reach American soil.
“So this isn’t a laughing matter. This isn’t a matter about something that might happen. This is a matter about something that will happen unless we take steps to prevent it from happening.
“American Administrations of both parties have tried and failed to curb the dangerous behavior of the Kim regime. Because before Kim, you had his father and then his grandfather before him. There’s plenty of blame to go around for how we got here. But rehashing past mistakes won’t get us anywhere. Instead, the United States and other global powers need to focus on this challenge before it is too late.
“However, I fear that the Administration’s inconsistency in recent weeks has thrown fuel to the fire.
“We’ve seen the White House blow hot and cold on the potential for talks with Pyongyang. We’ve seen careless rhetoric alienate South Korea, a critical ally whose partnership is essential in trying to contain North Korea.
“One week, we see saber rattling toward North Korea—including the false claim that an aircraft carrier battle group was headed towards the Korean peninsula—and the next, the President saying he’d be ‘honored’ to meet with ‘smart cookie’ Kim Jong Un—the latest in a long list of totalitarian strongmen who seem to have won the President’s admiration.
“So we’re sending mixed signals, Mr. Speaker, and the world is taking notice. Inconsistency on national-security matters is not a foreign-policy strategy that will succeed.
When America appears confused or unmoored, it emboldens our adversaries and gives our friends and allies pause. And when we’re talking about nuclear weapons, there’s simply no margin for error.
“Fortunately, in this Congress, our priorities are clear: work with China and our close partners in the region and dial up pressure on the Kim Regime to return to the negotiating table. Last year, under Chairman Royce’s leadership, we passed a sanctions bill that President Obama signed into law.
“Kim Jong Un is exceedingly crafty. His regime has become increasingly effective at evading international sanctions. When we make sanctions tougher, they come up with new ways to get around them: phony bank accounts, fake companies overseas, shipments under foreign flags.
“So we need to go back to the well, to close the loopholes that the regime exploits. That’s what this measure does. It dials up sanctions on those who do business with the Kim regime, hopefully making them think twice before providing cover to one of the most brutal human-rights abusers in the world and the nuclear ambitions of the leader of that country.
“If you buy certain materials, like metals or minerals, from North Korea; if you sell fuel that the North Korean military can use; if you have a role in maintaining overseas bank accounts or insuring the ships Pyongyang uses to evade the law, then you’re going to get caught up in these new sanctions.
“If you ignore the UN’s limits on importing North Korean coal or iron, or try to buy cheap textiles or fishing rights from the government, or help the Kim regime conduct business online, you’ll be subject to additional scrutiny with this legislation.
“With this bill, we’ll target those who use North Korean forced labor, a gross human rights abuse and a cash cow for the regime. We’ll consider limiting certain types of assistance to countries buying or selling military equipment to Pyongyang.
“And in light of the recent public assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother and other nefarious activities, we require the State Department to take a hard look at whether North Korea should be put back on the State Sponsor of Terror List.
“The Kim Regime must be made to understand that we will not back down in our effort to cut off support for its dangerous activities. Every time they cut another corner, we’ll put up another roadblock. We will come after them again and again and again until they realize there’s no option but to sit down and negotiate.
“As we’ve seen, it won’t be an easy progress or process. Making real progress on complex global issues rarely is. Reckless threats and bombastic talk usually make matters worse, especially when you’re dealing with an unpredictable and impulsive leader.
“So the stakes are very high. No one wants to see war on the Korean peninsula, least of all the 25 million people in Seoul and the nearly 30,000 United States troops who are in Pyongyang’s sights every single day.
“So we need to remain focused, with clarity of purpose, in order to get the results we all want. This bipartisan bill builds on our record in the House of grappling with this challenge. I’m glad to join with Chairman Royce in this effort. I fully support this bill. And I reserve the balance of my time.”