The US Congress adopted tougher sanctions on North Korea today, in a bid to punish the reclusive Asian nation for its provocative recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
The House voted 408 to 2 in favour of the bipartisan measure, which would slap sanctions on any person or entity importing goods or technology or training related to weapons of mass destruction into North Korea, or anyone who knowingly engages in human rights abuses.
The Senate adopted the legislation on Wednesday, following a similar move by the House earlier this month. Today’s vote was on a compromise version.
It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The measure also heaps additional financial pressure on the already-sanctioned regime of leader Kim Jong-Un, by aiming at cutting down on money laundering and narcotics trafficking, two major illicit activities believed to be funneling millions of dollars into Kim’s inner circle.
Pyongyang shocked the world last month and earned a global rebuke when it announced it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
On Sunday, it defiantly launched a satellite-bearing rocket, a move the West sees as a cover for a ballistic missile test in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Under the bill, penalties for the sanctionable activities would include the seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts.
And for the first time, it establishes a framework for sanctions in response to North Korean cyber threats, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker.
Corker, however, admitted it would be difficult to target Chinese firms linked to Pyongyang.
“This is about North Korea, it’s not about punishing China,” he told AFP. “But if there are, we know there are, entities that are helping facilitate (prohibited activities), those entities would be punished.”
China, the North’s main diplomatic ally, has been resisting the US-led push for tougher UN sanctions.
Although fiercely critical of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, Beijing is more concerned at the prospect of Kim’s regime being pushed to collapse—triggering chaos on China’s border.
Japan unveiled unilateral measures earlier this week, including prohibiting North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports and a total entry ban on North Korean nationals into Japan.