By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican and Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday said they agreed on a new package of sanctions on North Korea, and that the Senate Banking Committee would act on the legislation next week, while President Donald Trump is on his first trip to Asia since taking office.
Among other measures, the “Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act of 2017,” named after a U.S. student who died after he was imprisoned in North Korea, would strengthen and expand existing sanctions and strengthen Congress’ oversight of North Korea sanctions.
It would also impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions, such as Chinese banks found to provide services to any individual targeted for North Korea-related sanctions by the U.S. Congress, a presidential executive order or U.N. Security Council resolution.
The new sanctions bill would require Trump, or any other U.S. president, to notify congressional committees of any intention to terminate or suspend the sanctions. It would also require the president to submit regular reports on the system for licensing transactions and regular briefings for Congress by the administration.
The international community has been working to come up with a response to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missiles programs that does not involve potentially catastrophic military action.
Members of the U.S. Congress in particular have called for China, and Chinese banks, to do more to clamp down on Pyongyang.
North Korea this year conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation and has test-fired a volley of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that, if perfected, could potentially reach the U.S. mainland.
The sanctions bill was agreed upon by Republican Senator Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sherrod Brown, its ranking member, along with panel members Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat.
“The time has come for the U.S. to take the lead to ensure that all nations work together to isolate the Kim regime until it has no choice but to change its dangerous, belligerent behavior,” Crapo said in a statement.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool and Tom Brown)