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Jiwon Song is an NK News contributor based in Seoul and studied International Relations at Waseda University. Follower her @jiwon_song121
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would tighten sanctions on North Korea.
The suggested measures would block any potential activity considered to contribute to North Korea’s nuclear program, currency flows, cyber attacks and human rights abuses.
In addition to restricting North Korea’s nuclear program and arms-related materials, the bill sanctions any entities engaging in the trade of illicit goods, including luxury and counterfeit goods. The measures are the toughest yet, restricting activities that were legitimate before, such as resources exports.
The bill also suggests imposing secondary sanctions on actors doing business in North Korea. China, North Korea’s most reliable ally and trading partner, would likely to be targeted under the bill’s provisions.
Cory Gardner, Republican senator and co-author or the legislation, said the U.S. must send a “strong message to China,” Reuters reported.
China recently rejected the U.S. suggestion of a ban on resource trading with North Korea and is expected to be unhappy with the U.S. sanctions legislation, should it become law.
“Beijing is very likely to voice disapproval of any measures that negatively impact China’s financial or commercial interests, especially if the sanctions are unilateral,” Sheena Greitens, a senior fellow of Brookings Institute told NK News.
However, Chinese financial institutions may be more wary than the government. Banco Delta Asia, a Macau-based bank known to have engaged in North Korea’s money laundering, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 under Section 311 of the Patriot Act.
“The sanctions rely on banks being conscious of their reputation, they are powerful in that the banks themselves have to decide what is in their economic interests,” Greitens said.
“Depending on how the sanctions are written, the Chinese government might object, but banks and companies might still feel enough pressure that they decide it’s interest is to comply.”
The bill is to reach the whole senate for a vote by the middle of February. As a sanctions bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives, if the bill passes the whole senate it will return to a conference committee to iron out differences between the the bills before heading to President Obama’s desk for his signature or veto.
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