Congress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions

Congress is moving toward slapping stricter sanctions on North Korea as diplomatic efforts flounder.

The sanctions, which aim to plug what Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenCongress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House Van Hollen proposes raising estate tax to boost Social Security MORE (D-Md.) described as a “leaking” sanctions regime, were added as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that passed the Senate on Thursday.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act does not contain the sanctions, but sponsors of the provision are confident it will survive bicameral negotiations based on conversations with House members.

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“We’ve seen two summits — we had the Singapore summit and the Hanoi summit — and we held off on pushing the legislation during those negotiations, but now that they’ve fallen apart, we thought it was important to take this next step,” Van Hollen said Thursday about President TrumpDonald John TrumpDalai Lama talks Trump, says European migrants should return to ‘their own land’ McConnell pledges to work with Democratic president on Supreme Court vacancy Trump campaign official: Democratic debate a ‘two-hour infomercial’ for president’s reelection MORE‘s two meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnCongress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions North Korea: South must stop trying to mediate nuclear deadlock with US The Hill’s Morning Report – Warren cements front-runner status in first Dem debate MORE.

Van Hollen was speaking at a news conference touting the sanctions alongside fellow co-sponsors Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump’s ‘due process’ remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCongress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions House panel to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency project Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law MORE (D-Ohio) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCongress moves toward stricter North Korea sanctions Hillicon Valley: Investigation finds federal agencies failed to address cyber vulnerabilities | Officials crack down on illegal robocallers | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Senators grill Google exec on ‘persuasive technology’ Senate investigation finds multiple federal agencies left sensitive data vulnerable to cyberattacks for past decade MORE (R-Ohio).

The bill is called the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act, after the student who died after being returned from North Korean detention in a coma. Its sanctions are modeled after ones against Iran in 2010 and 2012 credited with bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.

Supporters say the bill, which would impose secondary sanctions on financial entities doing business with North Korea, is necessary to target those helping Pyongyang evade existing sanctions. The secondary sanctions are expected to particularly hit Chinese banks.

“They would present Chinese banks with a very simple choice: You can do business with the United States or you can do business with North Korea, but you can’t do both,” Toomey said.

Trump’s Hanoi summit with Kim in February ended without a deal after differences in what the United States and North Korea were willing to give on sanctions relief and denuclearization, respectively.

In the following months, talks appeared to be at a standstill, and North Korea tested several short-range missiles. But more recently, Trump and Kim have started to exchange flattering letters again, with Trump saying this week that Kim recently sent him a birthday greeting.

Trump is scheduled to visit South Korea following his current trip to Japan for the Group of 20 summit. The White House has said there are no plans for Trump and Kim to meet while Trump is on the Korean Peninsula.

In March, Trump also said he did not think new North Korea sanctions were necessary, saying he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Kim.

On Thursday, Toomey insisted the Trump administration is behind Congress’s latest effort at North Korea sanctions.

“I’m not aware of any resistance from the administration,” he said. “As I said, this is no surprise to the administration. We’ve worked with administration officials, and I think they welcome tightening the screws on North Korea. They recognize the need for that.”

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