This week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act.
This legislation, long in the works but spurred on by Pyongyang's recent nuclear test, seeks to hark back to the moment of US pressure a decade ago. As the bill's sponsor and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Ed Royce, writes:
The answer is not patience or proportionality but more pressure – it’s worked before. A decade ago, the United States targeted Macao-based Banco Delta Asia for its role in laundering money for North Korea, and cut it off from the U.S. financial system. This led other banks in the region to shun North Korean business, isolating the rogue regime.
Today we must once again learn from this lesson and use financial pressure to end North Korea's threat to its own people, to our South Korean allies and, ultimately, to us. Fortunately, the U.S. House this week overwhelmingly passed my legislation, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 757), to crack down on the Kim regime.
Experts who have been keeping an eye on this legislation tell us that the US NGO community is concerned, even though much language that could harm US NGO work was largely removed from the version of the bill that passed. But depending on how the executive branch interprets it, working in the DPRK could become much more tricky for US citizens. If an administration wants to take an aggressive approach, the bill could be used to potentially prohibit American citizens from providing tourism services or even using Air Koryo. There may also be issues with US citizens providing humanitarian aid.
International NGOs and other international organizations such as the UNDP or WFP may also face difficulties as banking could become even more difficult. Meanwhile, we wait to see what the UN Security Council will come up with in the coming days and weeks.
Overall, it is fair to say that 2016 is getting off to a difficult start.