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Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Impose Economic Embargo on North Korea and Its Enablers

Jul 13, 2017 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced the North Korean Enablers Accountability Act, bipartisan legislation that would ban any entity that does business with North Korea or its enablers from using the United States financial system, and impose U.S. sanctions on all those participating in North Korean labor trafficking abuses.

“North Korea, one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, is continuing to expand its nuclear and ballistic missile threats against the American homeland and our allies,” said Rubio, chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women’s Issues. “It’s high time for the United States to maximize international economic pressure against Kim Jong Un’s regime as well as against the many foreign banks and foreign companies that are enabling it, especially in China.”

“With its latest successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea has demonstrated intent and capability to hit the U.S. homeland – and as President Trump said, we must never allow this to happen,” said Gardner, chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity.  “We must take every diplomatic and economic measure now to stop North Korea and to prevent nuclear war. My bipartisan legislation gives those that currently conduct trade with North Korea a clear choice – either do business with this heinous outlaw regime or do business with the world’s leading economic and military power.”

“There is no military solution to the threat of a nuclear North Korea,” said Markey, ranking member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity. “We must utilize direct negotiations with Pyongyang alongside increased economic sanctions pressure from China to bring the Kim regime to the table and ultimately rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons. These negotiations could offer the prospect of engaging North Korea in line with international norms by ending horrific human rights abuses, including labor trafficking.”

“North Korea must be held accountable for its dangerous and destabilizing actions,” said Portman. “Whether it’s the regime’s illegal nuclear weapons program, its provocative ballistic  missile tests, its human rights abuses against its own people, or its outrageous and unacceptable detention of Americans, it is time to impose meaningful costs on the North Korean government. The United States cannot do this alone, and other countries in the region, particularly China, also have an obligation to take real action against this threat to regional stability and our national security.” 

“North Korea’s Fourth of July intercontinental ballistic missile test constitutes a new level of threat to U.S. national security and regional peace and stability that requires a firm response,” said Menendez. “This provocative and destabilizing act has rightly been condemned by the United States and the international community and must serve only to further isolate North Korea. In that vein, the bill we are introducing today is a bipartisan effort that represents additional measures required to get our North Korea policy right. We seek to impose real consequences for those entities who, even after Kim Jong-un’s defiance and continued flagrant violations of international law, continue to do business and support his vicious regime. In light of Pyongyang’s continued determination to have a functional missile capable of reaching the United States topped with a nuclear warhead, I will continue to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to seek effective measures to curtail North Korea’s dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

On July 4, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that demonstrated the capability of reaching the U.S. homeland. Two weeks prior to that, North Korea tested a rocket engine capable of carrying an intercontinental ballistic missile. In 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile launches. This year, North Korea fired 17 missiles during 11 tests. Ninety percent of North Korea’s trade is conducted with China, and recent reports indicate that China’s trade with North Korea has significantly increased.

Earlier this year, Rubio praised the Trump Administration for instituting a new round of sanctions targeting a North Korean company as well as 11 North Korean nationals. He also introduced the bipartisan North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act, and legislation to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Rubio supported the North Korea Sanctions Policy and Enhancement Act signed into law by President Obama in February 2016. The legislation marked the first time Congress imposed stand-alone mandatory sanctions on North Korea.

The North Korean Enablers Accountability Act would:

  • Require the president to block all transactions that are property of the North Korean government, affiliates, or those that do significant business with North Korea.
  • Require the president to block any entity or financial institution implicated in any significant trade in goods or services with North Korea from the U.S. financial system. Entities include the top 10 Chinese importers of goods from North Korea.
  • Require the president to prohibit any goods made with North Korean labor from entering the United States and to impose sanctions of all entities implicated in North Korean labor trafficking.