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Congress Readies New North Korea Sanctions

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said Democrats will support a Republican bill slapping Pyongyang with new sanctions, virtually guaranteeing the legislation will pass in the House as early as next week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly on-camera press conference in the Capitol on Jan. 7, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly on-camera press conference in the Capitol on Jan. 7, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said Democrats will support a Republican bill slapping Pyongyang with new sanctions, virtually guaranteeing the legislation will pass in the House as early as next week.

Congressional appetite for new punitive measures against North Korea spiked after the reclusive regime tested a nuclear weapon Wednesday, its fourth since 2006. The U.N. Security Council “strongly condemned” the test the same day and agreed to immediately begin negotiations on a resolution containing “further significant measures.”

An aide for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Foreign Policy the legislation would be based on the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill that passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year. The measure authorizes sanctions against banks facilitating the country’s nuclear program and the freezing of U.S. assets linked to North Korean “proliferation, smuggling, money laundering, and human rights abuses.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said Democrats will support a Republican bill slapping Pyongyang with new sanctions, virtually guaranteeing the legislation will pass in the House as early as next week.

Congressional appetite for new punitive measures against North Korea spiked after the reclusive regime tested a nuclear weapon Wednesday, its fourth since 2006. The U.N. Security Council “strongly condemned” the test the same day and agreed to immediately begin negotiations on a resolution containing “further significant measures.”

An aide for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Foreign Policy the legislation would be based on the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill that passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year. The measure authorizes sanctions against banks facilitating the country’s nuclear program and the freezing of U.S. assets linked to North Korean “proliferation, smuggling, money laundering, and human rights abuses.”

Last year, Republicans in the Senate also introduced North Korea sanctions legislation, but the upper chamber may simply take up the House version of the bill this time around.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legislation, but it has already signaled it supports new punitive measures against the regime. On Wednesday, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., Samantha Power, said the Obama administration wants a “tough, comprehensive, and credible package of new sanctions” to punish the young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The challenge to mounting a successful sanctions effort is figuring out how to “impose tangible costs on North Korea without feeding a cycle of outrage and risking additional symbolic escalation,” said Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for not responding more aggressively to North Korea’s bad behavior while some nuclear nonproliferation experts have faulted the White House for missing opportunities to engage diplomatically with the regime. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said the United States should increase pressure on China and impose additional sanctions on the regime. “The United States and our partners, including the U.N. Security Council, need to immediately impose additional sanctions against North Korea,” Clinton said.

Photo credit: Bill Clark/Getty Images

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