Obama signs N. Korea sanctions bill into law

February 18, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a package of tough sanctions on North Korea on Thursday, completing an unusually speedy legislative process underlining concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

The White House said Obama signed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (H.R.757), saying the legislation “strengthens and expands statutory sanctions on North Korea.” The law took effect immediately upon the signing.

The bill passed through the Senate and the House last week in a demonstration of bipartisan support for a tough response to the North’s nuclear and missile tests that raised concern that Pyongyang is making progress in efforts to develop nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S.

The legislation calls for imposing mandatory sanctions on those assisting Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, cyber-attacks, human rights abuses and imports of luxury goods.

It is also aimed at choking off sources of cash for the regime by sanctioning trade in coal, minerals and precious metals, and blacklisting those helping with Pyongyang’s money laundering, counterfeiting, cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking.

It was the first time that a sanctions bill exclusively targeting North Korea has been passed by both the House and the Senate and then signed into law. Many North Korea sanctions proposals have been introduced in Congress so far, but none of them has passed both chambers.

The legislation, which was originally authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, passed the House last month before it was combined with similar bills in the Senate proposed by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Voting records have shown overwhelming congressional support for punishing Pyongyang. The bill first passed the House by 418-2, then the Senate by 96-0 and the House again by 406-2. It took only 37 days for the legislation to pass both chambers and go into effect.

“We can’t stand by while the North Korean regime develops a nuclear arsenal capable of striking the United States,” Royce said in a statement upon the bill’s enactment. “Targeted sanctions aimed at banks and companies that do business with Kim Jong-un will cut-off the cash he needs to sustain his illicit weapons programs, his army, and the continued repression of the North Korean people.”

Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said Obama’s signing of the legislation represents recognition that his “strategic patience policy has failed and we need a new direction to stop North Korea’s increasing belligerence.

“My bill provides that new policy of strength, and I’m proud that Congress put politics aside and came together to approve mandatory sanctions designed to stop the forgotten maniac in Pyongyang,” he said. “Today, we’ve given our allies a reason to trust us, and our enemies a reason to fear us.”

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