US lawmakers moved to toughen sanctions against North Korea by targeting money laundering and human rights violations, voicing impatience with the hardline regime.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the bill hours. Previously, Japan, a US ally that has usually championed a hard line on North Korea, unexpectedly eased sanctions after talks.
The House bill would create a blacklist of officials judged to be involved in human rights abuses after a damning report by a UN commission likened abuses by Kim Jong-Un’s regime to those under Nazi Germany.
While the United States already maintains sweeping sanctions against North Korea, the proposed law would seek to make the totalitarian state radioactive for banks from third countries by asking the Treasury Department to consider designating Pyongyang a money-laundering concern.
This move is inspired by the freezing of USD 25 million in North Korean funds in 2005 on US money-laundering and counterfeiting charges at the Banco Delta Asia in the Chinese territory of Macau. Hard-up Pyongyang refused to comply with a denuclearization deal until it received the funds.
The sanctions bill would also re-impose strict restrictions on export licenses that were loosened in 2008 when the President Bush controversially took North Korea off a list of state sponsors of terrorism because he intended to sign a final denuclearization agreement.