While everyone was focused on House Republicans approving a sweeping health care bill aimed at fulfilling their campaign promise to repeal ObamaCare, the House overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions on North Korea today amid heightened tensions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Final tally was 419-1 and the vote targets North Korea’s shipping industry and use of slave labor.
The Trump administration has to report to Congress within 90 days with a decision on whether North Korea should be reinstated on the government’s state sponsors of terror list. If they are designated as a state sponsors of terror then more sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance could kick in.
So who was the one person that voted no? GOP Rep Walter Jones of North Carolina.
Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. says that it’s only a matter of time before Kim Jong Un has the capability of launching a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States.
The bipartisan legislation is aimed at thwarting North Korea’s ambitions by cutting off access to the cash the regime needs to follow through with its plans, FOX News reports.
The measure is sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the committee’s senior Democrat.
Specifically, the bill bars ships owned by North Korea, or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it, from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States, according to the legislation.
Anyone who uses the slave labor that North Korea exports to other countries would be subject to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the bill states. At times when the nation is facing unusual or extraordinary threats, the president has wide authority under the law, including the power to block or prohibit transactions involving property located in the U.S.
Royce said companies from Senegal to Qatar to Angola import North Korean workers, who send their salary back to Pyongyang, earning the regime billions of dollars in hard currency each year.
“This is money that Kim Jong-un uses to advance his nuclear and missile program, and also pay his generals, buying their loyalty to his brutal regime,” he said. “That is what the high-level defectors that I meet with say. So let’s squeeze his purse.”
Harris said that North Korea remains “the most immediate threat” to U.S. security, as they “vigorously” pursue strikes and launches intended to target Australia, South Korea, and the U.S.
“Kim Jong Un is making progress and all nations need to take this seriously because their missiles point in all directions,” Harris said. “If left unchecked, they will match the capability of his hostile rhetoric.”
Harris stressed the importance of what he called a ‘”shift” in Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric, after threatening nations like Australia and the U.S. by name this week.
“His rhetoric is going in one direction and his capabilities are approaching the lines of his rhetoric,” Harris said. “Where those lines cross, I believe we are at an inflection point and we wake up to a new world.”
Harris also voiced confidence in President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis noting that they have made it quite clear that “all options are on the table.”
“We want to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not to his knees,” Harris said, adding, “I have the forces in place to fight tonight if necessary.”
Harris also called for Congress to pass a budget that would provide the DoD (Department of Defense) with more resources, saying that additional materials are needed “in the long-run.”
The U.S. is installing the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea and told the committee that it would be operational in “a couple of days.”
“THAAD allows us intercept capability to shoot down, at the high altitude level, ballistic missiles that go from North Korea to South Korea,” Harris said. “THAAD is a system that would give an umbrella to protect South Korea.”
Harris also touched on China’s role in the North Korean crisis and said that he remains “cautiously optimistic, but hopeful.”
“We’re seeing more activity—positive activity—from China in this case than we’ve seen in a long time,” Harris said.
The President deployed high altitude surveillance drones over North Korea earlier this week in a bid to gather intelligence about the secretive country’s nuclear and military capabilities ahead of any military action.
The latest moves, coupled with recent mobilizations of Chinese, Russian and U.S. military assets suggests previous policies of patient diplomacy under President Obama and President Bush have been thrown out the window.